How Good the Light was!

The Feast of the Epiphany , January 6, the last day of Christmas, has always been my favorite holiday.

Church Window in Belgium (Gent)

As a young child, I somehow associated it with lights and delights.  We would camp out in our living room on that night, wrapped up in warm sleeping bags, hot chocolate garnished with marshmallow cream, and the Christmas lights burning bright and joyfully for one more night.

Then later, as an adolescent living in French Breton, I was reminded of the connection to the Magi, foreign kings come to honor the baby Jesus.  Baking and eating gallete des rois (king’s cake), first hiding the Christ figure in the soft braided dough, and then hoping and searching for it on my own plate.

As an adult, the day continued to excite and inspire as I learned to understand the deep significance of epiphanies** and other wondrous revelations of self and life and spirit.

It could seem confusing and that transformation of this feast into so many different  significances was but the folly of my own youth and ignorance.  However, my view of the Epiphany as a gem with many facets is, in fact, reflective of the history of the celebration itself.

Originating in the Eastern Church, and not celebrated by the Roman Church until the latter sixth century, Epiphany was initially the celebration of Christ’s Baptism by the Holy Spirit as an adult, and then of the Nativity (the birth of Christ), and variably the Wedding of Cana (occasion of the first miracle performed by Christ).  The current importance of the Magi to the event was a much more gradual attachment (a wonderful reflection of the greater meaning of the Magi to the Church is given by NateAddington).

What was never in dispute, however, was that this blessed day was intended to commemorate the glorious manifestation of the Divine in the world, in the many ways in which Grandeur was revealed.

The extraordinary nature of this celebration was one that could neither escape my child’s eye nor that of the young Church.  And its greatness has warranted continued reflection and evolution throughout both of our maturing.

So, as always, I welcome this day with wide eyes and open heart,

Feast of the Epiphany

Celebration of Light and Wonder and Understanding and Illumination

reminder to continued growth and reflection and grace.  And I start with a meditation on Radiance, on how good is the light…

**epiphany(1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

Feasting on Family

© Bobby.mn  Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos 1768902In the Catholic liturgical calendar, today is the Feast of the Holy Family.  It seems an appropriate time of year, what with the many close holidays celebrated by feasting and gathering.  It also comes at a historical time when the definition of family has been much discussed and so encourages me to reflect on the meaning of family to me.

Of the history of the Feast Day, we can read that it was initiated by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 in response to the industrial revolution and what he viewed as a “the break-down of the nuclear family. Thus, Leo held up the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to serve as a model for family life and unity.”

So, if the Pope is to be believed, a grouping consisting of a relatively innocent man, a seemingly adulterous, unwed pregnant teen and, later, her illegitimate child presents the model family.  (And ignore the fact that this is a couple who never tried to have children of their own, in spite of the Church’s teaching that, “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.”)

modern family-reality tvAnd I am not in disagreement.  This seems congruous with my own belief that families can be composed of many different pieces and it is the demonstration of respect, unity and mutual care that makes them a family.

Given what few stories we know of Jesus’s early years, his family certainly appears to have possessed these traits.

From the beginning, Joseph was a kind and compassionate man who sought to protect Mary from legitimized shaming even when he thought to divorce her.  Upon their marrying we must believe that he respected her wishes concerning sex and other children (or the lack thereof).  He was willing to uproot this family and move to foreign, unknown lands to protect them.  He helped his family to follow their religious mandates…

Mary, for her part, willingly consents to being a mother to the child, even though she did not plan it and did not even have the fun of making it.  (Did anyone mention that artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization are not Church approved methods of conception?)  And still, she clothed and fed and cared for him.  She worried for him when he went missing, had faith in his abilities as he grew into adulthood, and stood by him when he was unjustly accused.

And Jesus, at least on the one occasion where he was chastised by his parents, but gently answers and then obeys.

Kindness, compassion, trust, concern, respect, protection, nurturing, dedication, faith, participation, gentleness, loyalty, love…  Check, check and check.  All important characteristics for a family member to have.

Completely missing are the identifiers usually given by the Church such as biological parents of a biological child, conceived and born within wedlock, with ongoing, unprotected intimate relations offering the possibility of further children.

I like this.  I like the thought that had the world known, they would have been shocked by this family composition.  I like that both of these parents were brave enough to choose this unconventional family and then were consistent in their commitment to it.  I like that Jesus’ family continued to evolve into an even more different “chosen family”, as when he affirms that the crowds who gather to learn with him are his true family.

I like this because this is more representative of the families that I know and love.

My own immediate biological family is small and suffered under the expectations of the norm.  My extended biological family is enormous and comprised of most any kind of character.  They are, without exception, welcome and wonderful.  And yet it is my chosen family, both immediate and extended, who know me the best and who provide the most joy, the most growth and the most support.

A legitimately wonderful child from an abusive unmarried union.  The most generous twins abandoned in youth and adopted after adoption was no longer possible.  A loving sister of my soul who knew me before we were seen.  The ever-surprising mother who is included now by my own decision, in spite of the blood between us…

I am ever graced by them and overwhelmed with gratitude that they have elected also, to make me a part of their chosen family.   Strong, dynamic and valid.  A sacred grouping.  A holy family, worthy of any feast.

~May you each celebrate the dignity of your own family today, in all its varieties!