* * * * *
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.
-Gospel of St. Matthew 2:9-12
* * * * *
Here at the year’s end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts-
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses-
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.
-Kenneth Rexroth, from Sacramental Acts
* * * * *
The story of Epiphany offers us so many images: making the long journey through the desert, following the call and wonder of a star, carrying gifts and treasures, celebrating the beauty of a birth, and then returning home by another way, a different path. It is really a pilgrimage of the soul, the archetypal journey we each take as we move through a new transforming moment, part of the “endless epiphany” of our lives.
These last couple of weeks have been sheer gift. It began with the silent beauty of snow, lots and lots of snow. And while the city of Seattle came to a standstill, I reveled in the wonder of it all. I had already planned this time off, so I did not have anywhere I had to be. I surrendered myself fully to the silence of winter. Each snowflake became a star of wonder to follow. I walked for hours with camera in hand. I curled up in my prayer corner watching the snow fall outside and the people having great fun sledding down the hill by our home again and again. I sat in a darkened Cathedral on the Winter Solstice, the longest night, and listened to the service of Compline being sung. Compline is the Hour of re-entering into the darkness at the end of day. In monasteries, after Compline is sung, silence is kept through the rest of the night. I relished those long dark hours and marveled at the birth happening within me.
The snow has long since melted now, but I have continued to relish these quiet moments of the in-between days that mark the 12 days of Christmas. While others have attended “after-Christmas” sales, I have continued to hold the gift of these days like a jewel in the palm of my hand. It has been a wondrous balance to the full days of my life lately. Shifts and insights are opening within me like the flower in winter, beautiful and sturdy. I am being invited to go home to myself again in a different way.
Epiphany marks another celebration for me, the entrance of Tune into our lives two years ago. She continues to be the wisest of presences. Her witness to me in the quiet hours has been of another kind of knowing. She is both magi and gift, both bearer of gifts and the gift herself. She is the truest sense of the word epiphany — a constant revelation to me.
While I have mixed feelings about “New Year’s Resolutions,” what I do love is the hope wrapped up in those promises to do better, to be better. The hope that life is bigger and fuller and more meaningful than we can imagine right now in this moment. That there is always an invitation to travel hard journeys, to follow the joy of that which brings us to wonder, to carry our gifts with us and offer them to others, to celebrate the holy birth happening at every moment, to journey by new paths.
What are the endless epiphanies of your own life?
What is the birth you are being invited to celebrate?
(c) Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts
** Our next Poetry Party returns tomorrow! **