One morning this week, my grandniece was looking for the red plastic flag that sits atop her princess castle. Her mother said, “Go look under the TV.” In one swift movement, the two-year-old ran over, squatted (not low enough to see under the television stand), and ran back saying, “I no see it.” My sister (her grandmother) smiled and said, “That was ‘girl-looking’.” “Girl-looking?” I asked. She explained that a boy of that age would have been on his tummy, trying to crawl under the television stand. The search would have intensified to include crawling under any other tables, sofas, or cabinets in the area. “I need a searchlight, Mom,” he would yell from under the sofa. The looking would become so obsessive that you would have to call a stop to the search! This ordinary action and conversation caused me to think about the times when I look and don’t see, or give up looking when I am in darkness.
Yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. We are all familiar with the Biblical narrative of the three (or more) wise men (and women) who searched for the Promised One, following a ‘searchlight’ of their own. We are probably also familiar with epiphanies of our own – those “aha” moments when we finally see what we have been looking at all along. To experience an epiphany means to become aware, to look for meaning, and to take a risk of following a path without knowing the exact outcome.
Who were these magi in Matthew’s Gospel who set out on a journey of faith? The Nativity, a film produced in 2007, gave me a different view of the magi. They were serious scholars, but lighthearted with each other, and more humanly portrayed than I had previously imagined. They believed in science, followed a star, brought the best of what they had as gifts, recognized God in a helpless dependent baby, and listened to their heart (dreams) about finding a better path home. They were outsiders from different cultures, backgrounds, and traditions. In my own life, I often wonder if I trust enough and believe enough to set out for the unknown. Where is the Light that I am meant to follow? the Light that I am called to follow?
There is a practice of blessing the doors of our churches and homes on the Feast of the Epiphany. A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the entrance door, 20 + C + M + B + 16. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2016 is the year. We pray that when we enter these doors that we find Christ. Just as the magi left by another way, we hope that we ourselves leave in another way once we have found Christ, that is, that we are different and want to live in other, better ways.
Epiphany is about seeking light, seeing stars, and recognizing God in the ordinary events of our lives. The star in the east was there for everyone to see, but only a few were looking for it, and therefore, saw it. God has already found us, but we may need to look for Light in the darkness that surrounds us. Moreover, Epiphany is about being a light and a guiding star for others. Not easy, if we remain in darkness ourselves. How can we let God shine through us? How can we manifest a spirit of love and acceptance to all whom we meet on our journey?
We usually sing We Three Kings on the Feast of Epiphany, but I have chosen Bernadette Farrell’s wonderful hymn, Christ, Be Our Light, for today’s reflection. I am including verses 1, 2, and 5 here. (You can find a performance of this song on YouTube by googling the title and composer.)
Christ, Be Our Light by Bernadette Farrell (OCP, 1993, 2011)
Longing for light, we wait in darkness. Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people, light for the world to see.
Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light! Shine in your church gathered today.
Longing for peace, our world is troubled.Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.Make us your living voice.
Many the gifts, many the people,many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another, making your kingdom come.
May we see the Light and follow it. May we be generous with our gifts, offering others the best of what we have. May we appreciate the gifts that strangers bring us and the mysteries that they reveal. May we be flexible about changing our routes and about leaving in another way.