Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

Today is the feast of the Epiphany—the culmination of the Christmas season. In the darkest days of the year, we have been proclaiming Christ made manifest as the Light of the World that is in darkness. In Christian Orthodoxy, this is the Christmas. When we first moved to Georgia, I learned two things. I was extremely jealous of my Jewish playmates. They got presents for 12 days! I also noticed that Christmas decorations came down right after Christmas whereas in Pennsylvania they came down after Epiphany.

Christmas is about the manifestation of God. God was first manifest when God flared forth in the stardust of creation bringing the world into existence. Creation is the first manifestation of God. We see God’s manifestations daily here—regal Blue Herons, Great Egrets, osprey, eagles (BTW there is a juvenile eagle that hangs out on the lamp post near the entry road from the Blue Heron plants. The stardust of the Big bang is still courses through our DNA.

The Christ is the second manifestation of God. This is the God the Magi from the east were searching for. I want you to think how different things would have been if the magi were women. First, they would have asked for directions. They would have been on time. They would have helped birth the baby. They would have cleaned the house. And finally they would have brought a casserole.

Of course whether men or women, they would have had some comments on the way out. Did you see the sandals Mary had on with that gown? The baby does not look at all like Joseph. Why do they have all those animals in the house? Will we ever get our casserole dish back? A footnote—comments like these are gossipy. Please be aware that Pope Francis realizes how dangerous gossip is. He said that, when we gossip, we “murder” one another.

The Wise Men have been portrayed as kings, as in We three Kings of Orient Are. They were probably astrologers from the east. One Alabama preacher has said they were firemen because they came from afar. Be that as it may, these non-Jewish people were searching for the Christ. Epiphany means that Christ is for all people. They brought gifts which were symbolic. Gold for a king. Frankincense for divinity. Myrrh signaling the death of the Christ.

Like the magi, we are on a journey toward the Christ. We are being led to a greater manifestation of the Christ—God present in our lives. T. S. Eliot wrote The Journey of the Magi. The poem reflects his own journey to Christianity. It also reflects our journey. He recounts how difficult the journey was for the Magi.

A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

(- See more at: http://allpoetry.com/The-Journey-Of-The-Magi#sthash.aLZfwtht.dpuf)

They longed for the luxury of their palaces. Life in the towns they travelled through was difficult for strangers. Finally, arriving at the destination, Eliot writes that birth led to death. His conversion to new life resulted in death to the old ways:

All this was a long time ago,

I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death?

There was a Birth, certainly We had evidence and no doubt.

I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different;

this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

(- See more at: http://allpoetry.com/The-Journey-Of-The-Magi#sthash.aLZfwtht.dpuf)

This is true for us too. We are on a journey to greater union with God through the Christ. Our journey takes on a whole new tenor in the second half of life. In the first half of life we are about being successful and providing for our families. We are focused on success and accomplishments. Then things start to change. The abundant head of black hair is now gone or turned to gray or some other color. Muscles ache here and there. Things break. Aging is a sometimes cruel taskmaster. Recent research shows that cancer is more bad luck than life style and environment. Aging strips away at us. Life becomes more difficult. Like TS Eliot we suffer the little deaths that are preparing us for the final death of total abandonment to a loving God. Aging helps us to die to self and put on Christ. We realize that we are not really in control of anything.

One suggestion for growing old gracefully. Spend some time each day in prayer—not the yammering petition filled prayer we are used to. I am talking about the prayer of the heart. We sit and rest in God. Breathe in and out gently. When thoughts and feeling arise, label them thoughts and let them go gently. What comes up when we sit in God’s presence is all the stuff we need to turn loose. This is the Divine Physician healing us.

We journey on together. This Eucharistic bread and wine are food for the journey. Like the Magi, we do not travel alone. Somehow as we travel on, God finds us. We bring our gifts to the Christ so that Christ may be the light of our lives and the light of the world. We have seen the Light of the World—The Christ—and we are no longer content with all the idols of youth–the old dispensation. We are coming to new life. Life in abundance.

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