“Run after the star, and bring gifts with the Magi, gold and frankincense and myrrh, as to a king and a God and one dead for your sake.”
–St. Gregory Nazienzen
Is it me or is Epiphany super early this year? Supposedly it’s the 12th day after Christmas, but then again, it’s the first Sunday after January 1 (?) Whatever the case, it’s today.
(Here’s a little-known fact: the day after Epiphany is traditionally known as Plough Monday, which to my mind seems a very healthy corrective to such grotesque cultural institutions as Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
At any rate, I’d planned to fly to California’s Central Coast for a small New Year’s gathering with dear friends, but my flight got cancelled. They graciously suggested a zoom gathering New Year’s Eve, which was one of the highlights of my holiday season, and we used some of our time to set a reschedule date.
I was in bed by 10, asleep by 11, and woke at 4:21 a.m. New Year’s Day. My nervous system is pretty much grounded in running after the star, at all times, and amps up even further this time of year.
The whole of the Advent and Christmas season is for me liminal time. The Divine Office, with Morning, Evening and sometimes Daytime Prayer; emerging from daily vigil Mass in the dark and walking home down the light-festooned streets; my own solar-powered lantern lights, plug-in lights, and candles of various kinds–beeswax tapers, tea candles, votives, pillars, 6-day Sacred Image Bottle Light candles from the St. Jude Shop emblazoned with Madonna and Child, St. Peregrine, and the Sacred Heart…
The readings from Isaiah, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the Kate and Anna McGarrigle Christmas Hour…
Another highlight of the season was 9 am Mass yesterday, January 1, on the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, at Sts. Peter and Paul here in Tucson.
Fr. Justin is back from Africa (his father died), and thanks be to the Lord. There were only about 25 of us in this huge sanctuary, which was beautiful with its lit trees and wreaths, the morning sun pouring through the stained-glass windows, and a woman, accompanied by the piano, singing “Ave Maria.”
Father processed in, sporting a vestment adorned on the back with an image of the Virgin Mary, the deacon holding the Gospel aloft…he gave a simple heartfelt homily about how Mary is our mother–Mary is everyone’s mother–and the vocalist sang the Kyrie, Gloria, and old-school hymns throughout in a way that was also beautifully simple and clear…decent music at Mass is such an anomaly I was actually taken aback.
I went around and thanked everyone afterwards and there was a big box of lemons from someone’s tree on the way out so I nabbed a couple and isn’t that just like Christ–Thank you for coming to “Do this in memory of me” and hey, here’s some fruit!
Then last night I had my friends Johnny and Felicia over as I had planned to make dinner one night at the (aborted) California gathering so decided to cook here instead. We had pasta with caramelized shallots, (I had my doubts whilst cooking but it actually came out pretty well), roasted pear salad with hazelnuts, endive and Roquefort, and Claudia Roden’s orange and almond cake with maple ice cream. And coffee. Oh and good bread.
And even better conversation.
Sometimes you run after the star, and sometimes the stars come to you.
Over the holidays a loyal reader (snail!-) mailed me this quote that ‘ve read before but that struck me with renewed force:
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
–Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
That’s what I’m trying to get at: that (benign) force or invitation or call that gets us out of bed in the morning. How grateful I am for the treasury of the Church: its angels, martyrs, saints; its liturgical seasons, memorials, feasts, solemnities. Its ongoing, every-unfolding story–for those of us who live in a kind of cloister of one kind or another, for those of us estranged from family in one form or another (between the two, that pretty much covers all of us), the Church gives us a family, a meaning, a purpose, a mission, a place at the table around which to gather, celebrate, commune, ponder, mourn.
It’s always someone’s birthday (which in the Church is the day the person died, thereby entering into new life). There’s always an event to commemmorate by a song, a painting, a shared meal. There’s always spiritual meat on which to chew.
There’s always something to look forward to, a special Preface, antiphon, image, hymn.
A candle to light.
A star to run after.
Next up: The Baptism!