Epiphany.



This week we moved from the tender twelve days of Christmas proceeding December 25th, in which we linger in the preciousness of the Divine Mystery having been birthed anew (in, through, and as the very particulars of our lives), into the season of Epiphany beginning on January 6th. You don’t have to follow the liturgical year of the Christian tradition to lean into these rhythms.

Epiphany is about the manifestation or revelation of the divine here, now. Epiphany, according to the dictionary, means a sudden insight or intuitive understanding or grasp of reality through something simple and striking; a perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. It is curious that such a season would begin on a day with so much tumultuousness and agitation here in the United States. I can’t help but wonder if it is not a call to manifest and reveal that which is needed for the collective body right now.


Epiphany also marks the story of the three wise men bearing gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh - to the Christ infant that will accompany him as he begins to grow and develop. There is much to say about these substances and here is but a glimpse of what they represent. Gold is a precious metal associated with virtue, higher ideals, wisdom, and understanding. Although soft and malleable, it is the most reliable and durable electrical conductor. It is resistant to rust and corrosion and can be used to reduce swelling, bone damage, and relieve pain and stiffness. Frankincense is a symbol of prayer, holiness, and righteousness. It can be used as medicine for pain, inflammation, and swelling in people with various, sometimes chronic, diseases. It is thought to improve gut function, asthmatic breathing, and fight cancer. Myrrh has been used as both a sacred anointing and an embalming oil. It is a symbol of suffering and death. It can be used as an antiseptic, for healing wounds, for circulatory problems, and in Traditional Chinese medicine is seen as having special efficacy on the heart, liver, and spleen meridians along with ‘blood moving’ powers to purge stagnant blood from the uterus. Wisdom brought these elements to Christ. Pause and take that in. . .

I’ve been pondering the significance of this act and surmising its relevance for us now. Wisdom is needed as we navigate this fragile transition. Wisdom is knowledge of what is good, true, and just; it is not about knowing more but with more of you; it is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; it is the ability to make sound judgments, decisions and actions. Maybe we must bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh forth to the body of Christ, the collective Body now. Or maybe there are three different gifts that wisdom is bearing for each one of us for our unfolding and for the growth of and service to the whole. What might those gifts be?


In the East, Epiphany marks the the baptism of Jesus, the initiation into his post as a Wisdom Teacher, and honors the incarnate Christ as fully God and fully human, a truth that Jesus was revealing to the rest of us. Once you have listened to what gifts wisdom is bearing for you, you may want to engage the ritual of blessing yourself or your home with water. A baptism, an initiation of sorts as an outward symbol of an interior recognition of the ways wisdom will companion you as you begin this new year.


I invite us to make this our ongoing wisdom vigil, pouring out these gifts, during this season of Epiphany which continues through to the start of Lent.


May you be anchored.

May you be surrendered.

May you be connected.

May you be free.

May you trust the invincibility of your own heart.

With love,

Heather



Here are a some of the readings from the ‘collective contemplative pauses’ this week:

“Contemplative prayer is a form of unveiling, because it reveals what is going on beneath the polished and busy surfaces of our minds, our hearts, and our bodies. When we finally get still enough, contemplation can live within us in pure, open moments of right here, right now. This is enough, this is fullness. If it is not right here, right now, it doesn’t exist. If we don’t know God now, how would we know God later? The mystics say we won’t. We will not recognize God later if we cannot recognize God now. It is a matter of seeing God now through the shadow and the disguise.”

- Richard Rohr

“Dear Wisdom Friends. As we enter this Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of Holy Wisdom at the stable, I invite you all to join me over the next twenty-four hours in keeping Wisdom vigil for our American nation as we enter the eye-of-the-needle of what will surely be one of the sorest tests ever pressed against our democracy and against the resiliency and common sense of our people. Whatever your politics, there is a deep need for Wisdom to arrive again, bearing her gifts of steadfastness, lucidity, and forbearance. . . Lets’ surround our world tonight in a blanket of holy equanimity and remorse of conscience. Frankincense, gold, and myrrh.”

- Cynthia Bourgeault, click here for the full blog

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whasoever things are of good report, if there be any praise, think on these things.”

- Philippians 4:8

“Dear God and Father of us all, forgive our foolish ways,

Reclothe us in our rightful mind; in purer lives thy service find,

In deeper reverence, praise…

Drop thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease:

Take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of thy peace

Speak through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;

Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,

O still, small voice of calm.”

- Quaker Hymn

'For Those Who Have Far to Travel:

An Epiphany Blessing'

If you could see

the journey whole

you might never

undertake it;

might never dare

the first step

that propels you

from the place

you have known

toward the place

you know not.

Call it

one of the mercies

of the road:

that we see it

only by stages

as it opens

before us,

as it comes into

our keeping

step by

single step.

There is nothing

for it

but to go

and by our going

take the vows

the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to

the next step;

to rely on more

than the map;

to heed the signposts

of intuition and dream;

to follow the star

that only you

will recognize;

to keep an open eye

for the wonders that

attend the path;

to press on

beyond distractions

beyond fatigue

beyond what would

tempt you

from the way.

There are vows

that only you

will know;

the secret promises

for your particular path

and the new ones

you will need to make

when the road

is revealed

by turns

you could not

have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,

make them again:

each promise becomes

part of the path;

each choice creates

the road

that will take you

to the place

where at last

you will kneel

to offer the gift

most needed—

the gift that only you

can give—

before turning to go

home by

another way.

- Jan Richardson

A Prayer for Epiphany

Open my eyes, my ears, my hands, my arms, my heart

to know your appearing.

Make my heart a dwelling place ready to receive you

in even the bleakest spaces,

to delight at your appearing even as the animals

who welcome the birth of wonder.

- Jan Richardson

“Gradually, as we progress in Centering Prayer - or in any meditation practice, for that matter - we begin to reorient. Centering Prayer’s instructions to let go of all thoughts, regardless of content, directs us back to the silence itself, and we gradually learn the shape of the new terrain. As we stop grabbing for content, we gradually discover that silence does indeed have depth, presence, shape, even sound. It speaks, eloquently and intimately, but it speaks in sensation, not in thought bytes, and what it brings is not messages but an intuitive, intimate knowingness. As we mature in Centering Prayer, the perception that the emptiness is in fact the presence becomes more and more palpable. Thomas Keating encourages us to realize that this ‘sound of silence’ keeps right on growing. By his own stage in the journey, it has become ‘thunderous’.”

- Cynthia Bourgeault