It is a potent time.
The edge of Epiphany, along the border of Christmas, hovers over the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and the Presidential inauguration. A potent few days, as we reflect on the light of Christ coming to the world of the gentiles, the horror of forty years of legalized infanticide, and the celebration of a duly elected president sworn in to office, sworn to uphold the laws of the land. And then there’s football to divert us.
As for children lost to abortion, I pray the light of Epiphany might fill those dedicated saints who are marching to save future generations, holding banners in the freezing temperatures of our towns and cities across this great land. And I pray that the light of Epiphany may enlighten our president as he continues his term of governance, that it may enlighten all of our elected men and women who represent you and I in Congress.
We are a nation of elections, a democracy. And thus each of us must be informed voters, ready to make all the difference in the future of our culture and society. Each one of us must decide the future of our people; we cannot avoid this responsibility. Each one of us must turn away from the siren songs of the media and search out the truth. Each one of us, in a democracy, are accountable members of this body politic.
These are heavy matters, especially today in the cold dark of winter, and so we like to watch football. We are a fragile nation but a good one, one that continues to enlighten – and defend – other nations. America beckons everyone. All the world seeks to come here. Yet we have been chastened of late. We have been pruned. Will America fall? some ask. Will it survive without its Judeo-Christian roots? Will it flower once again?
My rose bushes have been pruned. I am told they must be cut back so that they will grow new blossoms. It is hard to believe this as I gaze at the butchered stalks in the pale light outside my window. But as I wait for spring, I think how blessed I am to be nourished by Sunday church. This morning my senses were warmed by the red-carpeted nave leading to the high altar and tented tabernacle. I was nourished by the experience of God, by holy worship, where robed priests and acolytes step softly and reverently as though each movement mattered, and my prayers and songs danced with them through the liturgy of the Eucharist.
Eucharist, I understand, means thanksgiving. And we have much to be thankful for. In the Eucharist, the Mass, we empty ourselves so that we may be filled up. We arrive wintry souls, barren stalks, and as we prune ourselves of the sins of pride and passion that have owned our hours this last week, as we empty ourselves, clean out our souls, we ready ourselves for God’s light to enter. And enter He does, gently, fully, lovingly. By the end of this precious hour of procession, song, prayer, word, and sacrament we are filled up with God, filled by God. We give thanks, we praise, we become small in the presence of glory, in the beauty of holiness. Then, filled with God, we can hear his voice. We can hear what we are to do, how we are to evaluate and judge, why we are to love and suffer in the coming week.
God’s spirit descends upon us just as His spirit descended upon Jesus when baptized by John. Our preacher explained this morning that Jesus is the very same Word breathed by God the Father over the waters, when our world was birthed. In the Eucharist, we take in that Word and are recreated, re-generated.
Regenerated. I have found that if I am given God’s direction, His light in this way – kneeling in a warm church on a cold Sunday – that the past week and the future week make sense. I enter the doors empty and leave full. I know as I descend the stairs to our parish hall for coffee and sandwiches that I have been made new. And I have been given hope that my will might possibly merge with God’s, the only true path to happiness.
Without this light, I slip into self, into darkness. I become full with other things and God cannot find room. My days fall into chaos, confusion, sadness.
But with regular worship, I can see and understand. The world makes sense: the sacrament of time – Epiphany merging into Lent; the fitting and happy celebration of a democratic election accomplished in (for the most part) a law-abiding land, a quilt of many cultures and skins and points of view. Even the horror of this forty-year memorial, mourning the innocents slaughtered, I know, one day, will be redeemed.
For the light of God, indeed God himself, wins in the end. He shines in the dark even if the darkness comprehends it not. And He shines for us, should we desire Him, especially in church.