This week’s Reflections focuses on the Christian tradition of Epiphany, how we might understand this myth, put ourselves into the story, and see what we learn. I wrote it in 2017, and I offer it to you now as a love note for 2020 while I take a bit of a break.
This past week included the Christian celebration of Epiphany, or the Feast of the Magi. [2020 note: Today is in fact the Feast of the Epiphany.]
Epiphany is the day when many Christians celebrate the arrival of three people from different parts of the world traveling to meet the one they believed heralded a new world. They were said to have followed a star—they are described in such a way that they would probably have qualified as astrologers, watching the heavens for portents.
It is written that the visitors brought gifts symbolizing sovereignty (gold), divinity (frankincense), and mortality (myrrh). Frankincense was (and still is) a resin used to offer prayers to the divine. Myrrh (now often paired with frankincense), was one of the sweet-smelling resins used in wrapping and preparing the dead for burial.
There is also a line in the story (lots more backstory I’ll preserve you from here), “They went home by another way.”
The story is highly mythic, by which I mean there are many ways you can unpack it to reveal more and more. Which is interesting since “epiphany,” means “revelation.” People still use “epiphany” like this when they mean, “a flash of insight.” A revelation.
Who are we, the Magi?
And so there are many things in the story reveal and are revealed. For one thing, these magi, these wise people, these magicians or astrologers from other parts of the world, thought this baby was important.
Their gifts are precious, all of them, and they can remind each of us that we are precious (gold), divine (frankincense), and mortal (myrrh).
They have come a long way, as we do on our journeys toward wisdom and Divine Communion.
They follow a star, a natural phenomenon seeming to act in unexpected ways. Things we expect to behave in familiar ways shift and change and slip when we’re on a spiritual journey.
We are all magicians.
We are all the squalling baby, new to the world every day, beginning again if we will let ourselves.
Once we have experienced the communion of the heart that is the sense of the Spirit’s closeness, we cannot help going another way. We cannot help it. There is no going back along known pathways. Those pathways no longer draw us, no longer appeal, no matter how familiar they are.
These are a few of my thoughts about Epiphany.
And now for the inspiration (the epiphany?) that I could write about this holiday:
A minister friend of mine, Heidi, does something that apparently many progressive Christian churches do as they celebrate Epiphany. She passes out big, silver stars to congregants young and old. On each star is a word. The star carries a message, guidance, something that may change your direction.
If you read last week’s Reflections, you may recall that I said my word for the year—a word I chose for myself—was “Juicy.” But there is something beautiful and different about having a word chosen by chance, by Spirit, by the minister, however you see it. There is something about being given a word we did not choose, for which we have not built scaffolds of expectations in our minds…
There is something about being given a word—Beloved, Discernment, Wonder, Joy, Grief, Empathy, Gentleness—that is powerful. It is the power of the Tarot, of the Runes, of Ifa or the I Ching…it is we who are shuffled, not just the cards.
And so I make you an offer. I have a deck of cards to my right, and each has a word on it. Some are “friendly” on the face of them, like, “Pleasure,” “Love,” “Delight.” Others are more difficult, like “Martyrdom,” “Abandonment,” “Betrayal.” My cards are not the cards of the Christian Epiphany. But they give guidance, nonetheless.
My offer is this: Reply to this email, and tell me—even if you think I know—how you got connected with Reflections and The Way of the River. In return, I will pull a card for you with a word for you to reflect on, a word to take into the year, a word that is just for you, offered by the Universe.
Blessings of revelation and insight to you!
Connections All Around
I’ve had some lovely exchanges recently, via both email and Zoom, with folks I had not previously had the chance to get to know. Might you be one of the people who next reaches out?
Maybe you’ve been reading Reflections for a while, and you’re just curious about who I am and what else I do. Maybe you’ve heard me talk about spiritual direction, but you still don’t really know what it is, and you’d like to know. Maybe you know you need support and challenge in your spiritual life, and you’re wondering whether we’re a good fit.
Or maybe you’d just like to talk for half an hour with this purple-haired priestess “in person,” via videoconference or phone.
Any of these is a good reason to reach out. Let’s chat! Simply click that link to schedule a free half-hour conversation with me. I’m looking forward to it!