Sunday, January 08, 2006

After Epiphany

Over the last few years, the Feast of Epiphany (6th January) has come to be one of my favourite dates in the Church year. [this year has been a-typical; but here's how we celebrated, and what I shared on the closest Sunday, twelve months ago]

No self-respecting nativity set is complete without three kings and a camel - though the gospel account, in Matthew 2, keeps silence on how many Magi there were, their regal-or-otherwise status, and transportation choice. Indeed, there are few details of any sort, though enough to hint at a journey of adventure the better part of two years in the making by the time they arrived at a destination they didn't realise was their goal until they got there. I've loved the implied scholarly research, and practical preparations, that went on behind the scenes; the setting-out-not-knowing-where-you-were-setting-out-for; the choosing and giving of gifts...

...But this year I have been struck by a fresh realisation that the epiphany was not the end of their uncertain journey. I imagine their angel-guided journey home, avoiding obvious trade routes so as to slip past the soldiers of a vengeful paranoid megalomaniac, hiding by day and journeying by night; like Aragorn leading Frodo and his companions cross-country under the noses of the Ring Wraiths. The outward journey was blind; the homeward journey no simple retracing of now-known steps.


  1. i remember in cluster a few years a go we made a toast nativity - we toasted bread & then cut out the characters. it was ace.

  2. Hey, Dan!
    I was just thinking of you would be great to meet up sometime. Good to have your cheerful self back in my blog comments ; )

  3. hey Andrew

    still reading your blog - a provocation to pray and think great stuff... your comments on epiphany made me think of both a 'Riding Lights' show which included some great 'Magi' which i saw as a child and also the TS Eliot poem on the Magi.. do you know it? you probably do... but just in case here it is:

    The Journey of the Magi

    'A cold coming we had of it,
    Just the worst time of the year
    For the journey, and such a long journey:
    The ways deep and the weather sharp,
    The very dead of winter.'
    And the camels galled, sore-footed, 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 arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
    Finding the place; it was (you may 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

  4. Hi Naomi!
    Yes - brilliant poem; well worth reading over and over again.

  5. um, sadly i can't meet up as i'm, er, busy. or something. you know how it is.

  6. you're just scared he'll discover the new secret identity you've taken on (the one you confessed about to me earlier)

  7. i'm happy to confess to the whole world...
    it would be lovely to catch up. assume i'll see you at church?

  8. It is as I thought. You are one of Santa's helpers, and you couldn't be busy right now because he gives all his helpers January off.

    I'm right, aren't I?

    Yes, I'm sure we'll be around at church. We can make a plan whenever we happen to coincide.