Posts Tagged With: Epiphany

One King’s Epiphany: Final Arithmetic and Losing the Stars (Madeleine L’Engle)

Madeleine L’Engle does it again!  Read this Epiphany poem once, twice, three times:

One king’s epiphany

I shall miss the stars.

Not that I shall stop looking
as they pattern their wild will each night
across an inchoate sky, but I must see them with a different awe.
If I trace their flames’ ascending and descending –
relationships and correspondences –
then I deny what they have just revealed.
The sum of their oppositions, juxtapositions, led me to the end of all sums:
a long journey, cold, dark and uncertain,
toward the ultimate equation.
How can I understand? If I turn back from this,
compelled to seek all answers in the stars,
then this – Who – they have led me to
is not the One they said: they will have lied.

No stars are liars!
My life on their truth!
If they had lied about this
I could never trust their power again.

But I believe they showed the truth,
truth breathing,
truth Whom I have touched with my own hands,
worshipped with my gifts.
If I have bowed, made
obeisance to this final arithmetic,
I cannot ask the future from the stars without betraying
the One whom they have led me to.

It will be hard not ask, just once again,
see by mathematical forecast where he will grow,
where go, what kingdom conquer, what crown wear.
But would it not be going beyond truth
(the obscene reduction ad absurdum)
to lose my faith in truth once, and once for all
revealed in the full dayspring of the sun?

I cannot go back to night.
O Truth, O small and unexpected thing,
You have taken so much from me.
How can I bear wisdom’s pain?
But I have been shown: and I have seen.

Yes. I shall miss the stars.

     –  Madeleine L’Engle

The poem describes a mourning and a gaining, a seeing and a no-longer-looking, a finding and a losing, a Truth touched that changes one’s relationship to what has been most valued.  Following the ultimate equation leads to the One beyond the arithmetic.  The end erases the path.

I grieve with this king.  I’ve known times when what is found is wondrous, but what it means in loss intimidates. Have you?  What happens when we apply this to the simplest arithmetic of our relating to God – prayer?

I very much like the writings of Ruth Burrows, Carmelite.  Early in her Essence of Prayer she speaks of being attached to the strategies and methodologies of prayer being a bit of a trap.  I utterly agree.  We can become so focused on the how that we forget the Who.  The purpose is encounter with Love, not a completion of our favored strategies and some success to mark in our do-it-yourself I-am-not-a-prayer-for-dummies gradebook or prayer journal.  We become very attached to hows: they help us feel more in control in this relationship that is all unknowing — and some insoluble combination of mist, bright light and darkness when we try to put it in words.

Ah, but why would such little ones as we expect to word the Word in ultimate fashion?  We share sketches and glimpses, which is why this blog has been full of poetry during these days since Christmas.

When we meet the Word, the Truth – like the one king of L’Engle’s epiphany – we have come to the end of our arithmetic.  If we have been mathematician only, and lover only of the vehicle that brings us to what we seek, our loss is greater.  For me, when we meet the Word, all these images I love to play with fail.  All comes to silence, to no more equations.  We have seen.  And so, perhaps the best prayer for this one king, and for us, is the way to come to silence with Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

SAMSUNGOh, one king, we pray with you.  We miss our stars too, but meet you in the region where the One we know as Truth reigns well.  The stars never lied, no fear.  Help us to release ours as you have yours… the better to encounter, unencumbered by our strategies and lesser loves, the Word who Loves and is ever With us, Emmanuel.  

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Categories: Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stars Everywhere: Epiphany with Jessica Powers

On this day in a week begun with celebrating stars that guide through the darkness, I am intrigued by the relationship between light and dark and sight.  And so I google! Doesn’t everyone?  And I found what’s below on http://www.physicsclassroom.com

“The bottom line is: without light, there would be no sight. The visual ability of humans and other animals is the result of the complex interaction of light, eyes and brain. We are able to see because light from an object can move through space and reach our eyes. Once light reaches our eyes, signals are sent to our brain, and our brain deciphers the information in order to detect the appearance, location and movement of the objects we are sighting at. The whole process, as complex as it is, would not be possible if it were not for the presence of light. Without light, there would be no sight.”

We humans need light to guide us.  We need light in order to cue our eyes and brain to see.  It is light which makes perception possible.

Perhaps this is obvious?  I do not think so.  We focus, of course, on what we bring in bodily equipment and our choice to open our eyes!  But light precedes us.  It even invites our bodies and our hearts to open.  And is that not an apt thought as we wander round Epiphany?

The Light, the Word, the One precedes us always.  Without this Light, there is no chance to see, no resulting experiments and play our brain can make, no creating of our own with shades and color.

It is the Star that speaks to the magi.  It precedes them, and leads them to an unlikely end – a manger, a family, a vulnerability that would not have been the human dream to match their hopes.

SAMSUNGIn Too Much Light

The Magi had one only star to follow,
a single sanctuary lamp hung low,
gold ornament in the astonished air.
I am confounded in this latter day;
I find stars everywhere.

Rumor locates the presence of a night
out past the loss of perishable sun
where, round midnight, I shall come to see
that all the stars are one.

I long for this night of the onement of the stars
when days of scattered shining are my lot
and my confusion. Yet faith even here
burns her throat dry, cries: on this very spot
of mornings, see, there is not any place
where the sought Word is not.
Under and over, in and out this morn
flawlessly, purely, wakes the newly born.
Behold, all places which have light in them
truly are Bethlehem.

                                                                                                                Jessica Powers, 1964

There is SO MUCH light – an excess, and stars everywhere to guide us.  There is “not any place where the sought Word is not”.  

In Psalm 119:105 we read that the Word is a lamp for our feet, a light for our path.  May we rejoice in the excess of this person who is Love, expressed in Light, that helps us see where we stand and guides us forward.  If we manage to wake now and then to what is all around us, we will be dazzled by the amount of light with us, within us, within each other.  Just remember that waking to it does not necessarily mean that you or I feel it, anymore than I feel the molecules of the air.  See what the light creates in you, in others… what growth, what we see because of it, what life emerges.  The very looking for the Light is Light’s own gift.  Trust the process.  There are stars everywhere for us to find.

Blessed Light!  May we let its truth reach into every corner of our hearts, our relationships, our world.

SAMSUNG

Categories: Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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