It is January in the year 2013. Time passes. My oldest granddaughter turned twenty-five yesterday. My mother turns ninety-three next week. Christmas is over and the cold stillness of January surrounds us. I have put away the Christmas things… except for a candle to light at suppertime. Time passes, falling through the years like a waterfall, a river of light.
Most of these new year days have been filled with tapping my keyboard and developing small callouses on the tips of my fingers. I am typing and editingThe Life of Raymond Raynes by Nicholas Mosley (1961). Last year I edited Father Raynes’ retreat addresses given in Denver in 1957, called The Faith, Instructions on the Christian Faith. His words express the truth and joy of Christianity in a way I could understand, in a way, for that matter, most of us could understand. He speaks practically, reasonably, at times reminding me of C. S. Lewis, another Anglican apologist. Recently, Nicholas Mosley (Lord Ravensdale) gave our church publishing group, The American Church Union, permission to reprint the biography (thank you, Lord Ravensdale!), and now as my eyes capture the letters and words on the yellowing pages and I tap them onto the keyboard and into the document file and they mysteriously appear on the screen, I feel as though I have fallen into another world, the world of Mirfield in the north of England, home of the Community of the Resurrection. Yesterday I began a chapter set in South Africa and now I move through the dust and poverty of Sophiatown where the Community of the Resurrection established missions, schools, clinics.
Father Raynes was indeed a missionary. He brought the light of Epiphany, the manifestation of God on earth, into the homes of folks in the English countryside. He brought Epiphany into the hovels of Sophiatown in South Africa. He himself carried this light of Christ in his body, in his words, in his daily deeds. He glowed, he was embodied with Christ. I wish I had known him, yet I have been blessed to spend time with his biography, to shift these words from page to computer screen. Some of the words are his own, taken down in quotations, some of the words are his biographer’s, Nicholas Mosley. But the words move from the page into my mind and heart just as they move from the page through my fingers onto this screen. Father Raynes often said, “Life is a love-song we sing to Jesus.” Indeed – Father Raynes himself was a love song sung to Jesus. And the tune is a beautiful one, mellow, haunting, one that pulls me into his own heart. This is how God loves us – through real things, through real people. We call this the sacramental way.
Manifestation. Light. Telling the good news. Living the good news. And what is the good news? That God came to earth to be one of us, to bring us home to Heaven. No small thing – this promise of Heaven. No small thing – God’s love for us. No small thing – this immense and rich meaning granted to my time on earth. No small thing – hearing the music and the laughter and the joy of this sacramental way of knowing God.
I considered these things this morning in our parish church. St. Peter’s in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland is a quiet oasis of holy contemplation, a place of rejuvenation. It is a place of singing great hymns and hearing ancient chants drift through the air. It is a place where we meet God, receive Him in the Eucharist. This beauty of holiness continues even as our preacher speaks from the central aisle, manifesting God’s love among us, enlightening us. It continues until the crucifer and torchbearers recess to the bright narthex doors, until the moment when the tall tapers on the altar are silently snuffed by the acolyte. It continues to the moment when the organ booms the postlude and we leave our pews to greet our sisters and brothers, our family in God.
Manifestation. Light. Seeing God. Worshiping Him in the beauty of holiness amongst family and friends united by that light, by God’s manifestation to we gentiles in the first month of the Year of Our Lord two thousand and thirteen.
Epiphanytide is a short season this year – there is only one more Sunday. Soon we will consider Lent. But for now, in this moment in time, I shall be glad for God come among us, shining through us, and especially his shining through Father Raynes.