Tag Archives: Epiphany

The Journey of 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.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

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.

-T.S. Eliot (1927)

Joy and peace to all

For as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
shall remain before me, says the Lord;
so shall your descendants and your name remain.
From new moon to new moon
and from sabbath to sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:22-23)

One of the Principal Feasts of the church year, the Epiphany celebrates the “Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles,” as our Prayer Book calendar calls it (BCP 31). The wise men stand in for the whole Gentile world (that is, all of us) as they see and recognize in the child Jesus the promised salvation of the world.

Listen to one of the prayers for mission that we commonly use at Evening Prayer:

“O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 124)

Christ’s coming is for all, not just for the Jews, not just for the Orthodox or the Catholics, not just for the Lutherans or the Presbyterians or the Calvinists, not just for the Anglicans or the “real” Anglicans, not just for my parish or for yours, but for all.

Our religious tendency toward exclusivity does not serve God’s purpose of bringing light to all — to the whole earth, all nations, all tongues, men and women everywhere.

In the readings appointed for this Eve of the Epiphany, Isaiah points toward that future day when all flesh will worship God together, and Paul prays on behalf of the Romans (Gentiles like us): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit” (BCP 126).

“All joy and peace.” Joy and peace to all. That’s a fitting note on which to begin our worship this Epiphany.

Gracefully limping toward forgiveness

From the Collect for 6 Epiphany: “Because in our weakness we can nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace” (BCP 216).

How it must have hurt Israel (Jacob) to look up and see Esau coming, knowing that he was in the wrong. How it must have hurt to bow himself to the ground seven times as he approached, the morning after having his hip put out of joint in a wrestling match with God.

Israel limped on to meet his fate.

But Esau ran to meet him! Esau embraced him! Esau fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. Can you imagine the tear tracks running down Israel’s dusty face?

Have you been forgiven? I have, and it is both awful and wonderful.

In the Collect for Fridays (BCP 99), we pray that “we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace.” In today’s “Brother, Give Us a Word” email from the SSJE, Geoffrey Tristram reminds us that “the Gospels are clear there is only one way to be changed and transformed. And that is to die …. and then to allow Jesus to raise us to new life in him.”

What in you needs to die today? What do you need God to wrestle out of you today, even if you means you limp from now on?