Ephiphany of the Lord Reflection
We live in a world full of mystery and paradox. Life, death, love, suffering and time itself move within our consciousness without having any apparent need of our cooperation or consent. Our articulation and attempts at manipulations of these realities often appear like a two-dimensional Bob trying to explain and capture a sunset in a multidimensional universe.
This is all too often at the root of fear and doubt that fuel paranoia and our insatiable thirst for bad news. When paranoia grips our leaders it is like a creeping cancer that quickly consumes every strand of our daily lives. So it was at the time of Herod whose paranoia had spread to all those around him as well as to the population of Jerusalem. So it is also today when fear and doubt has fed the paranoia that is spreading in so many places around the world, wherever power and power structures are threatened.
Metanoia and Paranoia
This is the antithesis of the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ that has at its heart a call to metanoia, the opposite of paranoia. How can we regain this joy that makes the gospel relevant to our lives today?
It was the late theologian, Karl Rahner who wrote in, “Concern for the Church”, that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or [they] will not exist at all.” In 1965 the Jesuit predicted that in the not-too-distant future Christianity will become marginalised, in many parts of the world would face persecution or at least the loss of social prestige, that “there will be no earthly advantage in being a Christian,” and that faith will be a matter of personal conviction rather than institutional affiliation.
Humpty Dumpty has indeed fallen off the wall and the old models of authoritarian, imperial and patriarchal structures are under threat. We find our hearts called away from the fear driven dogmas towards the attraction of love. Far from the teachings of Jesus, the threat of hell and the promise of heaven have for too long been used by forces who are invested in maintaining control and the status quo with all its accompanying injustice. How are we to find our way to that abundant life promised by Jesus among all the angry arguments, accusations, threats and denials?
In today’s feast of the epiphany, it is from the East that the Jesus event is recognised and that the Christ is revealed to the world. Beyond the gifts of presence and acknowledgement there are further gifts laid at the feet of the Godchild; gifts signifying wisdom, holy speech and humility. All these gifts are offered by these so-called “wise men”: Zoroastrians, Persians and Medes, astrologers, dream interpreters, mystics and philosophers. I think that many conservative Christians are quite happy to see the back end of this group of people, returning to their “own country”.
Looking at the Gifts: Wisdom, Holy Speech and Humility
Let us however look more closely at their gifts presented to Jesus the Christ child, we can find how these can become gifts for us today also. It is in the nurturing of this same humility that we come to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers; wisdom requires humility just as wisdom is laid at the feet of the Christ child. It is in this humble relationship with Jesus that we can reach Truth.
If you have ever undertaken an obeisance, face flat in the dust, you will understand how self-importance and dignity naturally gives way to the importance of the “other”. It is most certainly at the heart of the practice of presence and acknowledgement. The many pilgrims who undertake such a journey at Fatima and Jasna Góra often attest to a “movement of the heart” that transcends act of penance and humility.
The contemplative way of the mystic reflects this type of journey. It is a journey undertaken in response to a call and the touch of “the other” that emanates from the inner depths of our being. To recognise ourselves also as a word of God that has been spoken by the “Word of God”, Incarnated in the Jesus event, is to recognise the sacred nature of all creation. It is a journey of all and wonderment in the face of all being. It is from this recognition that compassion, mercy and forgiveness that were taught by Jesus as “The Way”, becomes the surprising reality.
This is the amazing reality that we see emerging among small groups all over the world; the opening of our eyes to greed and injustice not with anger and rancour but with the continual rebirthing of compassionate living. It is out of this new mystical view gained through the contemplative life that we come to experience the interconnectedness between ourselves, our world and the cosmos.
The Human Face of God
The contemplative practice of the mystic brings us into a direct awareness of presence, acknowledging the sacredness and beauty of all creation. Creation and being are seen as a gift of God and so we recognise that each one of us are called to be gifts to each other as we are also called to be gifts to creation and all beings.
The Magi and their gifts point us ever deeper into the revelation; the revelation of the human face of God and the divine face of humanity. The revelation of Love incarnated.
In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus lies our hope of sharing in that resurrected life. This is our shared faith as a Church of hope making Jesus known to the world. This is our Truth in the relationship with Jesus. This is our light that dispels darkness, fear, doubt and despair.
To our opening question of how the revelation changes my view of reality, my relationship with others, my way of being in the world, we might now also add… What are the gifts that each one of us, men and woman of goodwill, people of joy and light: what can we bring into our communion with the Jesus as the head of the Church? The imperative is now as it is in every age. All of us are called to be mystics and contemplatives so that truth, light and joy may be reflected through us into the world.