18 Jan Rise, Go, Find, Adore
by Fr. Denis Lemieux
Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Is 60:3, Solemnity of the Epiphany).
Well, that’s that for 2020. I’m writing this in late October, mind you, so from my vantage point there are still two tumultuous months left in this most tumultuous of years. But, of course, you will be reading it in December or early January 2021.
Hello, new year! May you be one of healing and peace, and if that is not to be the way of it, may the God who sent you to us be with us through it all.
Of course, when I write that, I know I’m being a bit silly. God is always with us; that is rather the point of the whole Christmas cycle we have just celebrated and which ends with the Solemnity of Epiphany.
No, the question is not “is God with us or not?” It is not “where was God in 2020?” Nor is it whether or not he will be with us in 2021. The Lord is here; we are not to be afraid.
The question—the urgent question—is rather, are we looking for him? It seems to me that this is what Epiphany brings us this year.
The Lord who loves us and who fashioned the earth and all it holds now dwells at the heart of the world, at the very innermost core of his created order, while remaining God, who is from above and is above all things.
The “God above” has become “God within” without surrendering his own transcendent nature. It is a mystery of mysteries, and it is the heart of all of our lives.
It seems to me to be a matter of the utmost urgency that we, like the wise men, make the first and burning purpose of our lives to seek daily that God and the ongoing revelation of his presence and love in our world and in our lives.
Because, really, what is wrong with the world, after all? It’s not all the usual suspects we like to blame for everything: COVID and our response to it, this or that politician or party or ideology, environmental degradation, political corruption, systemic injustice of one form or another.
All of those things and the pathological behaviors they engender are at most symptoms of a deeper ailment, a deeper malaise.
It is the loss of God which is the great driver of tragic events in our poor broken world.
We no longer believe, and hence no longer know, and can no longer see, that the great and transcendent God who fashioned all things out of nothing, whose sovereign will called the galaxies and the planets and you and me into being, is a loving Father who surrounds us daily not only with all the created gifts of his love but the uncreated gift of his own unfailing presence.
We are coddled and cossetted in the cradle of the Trinity’s love; the Child Jesus held in the arms of Our Lady is an icon not only of God’s love coming to us in that event, but of the human person held secure in the love that was and is the womb of our very being. This is why, perhaps, it is an image that speaks so deeply to us.
If we do not see this, if we miss the epiphany of God because we either do not know of it, do not believe it, or do not choose to look for it earnestly—what are we left with? A terrible world full of fear and darkness, a world in which hand is set against hand, a zero-sum game where each can only secure what is his at the expense of what is the other’s.
And so comes the grim world of power struggles, corruption, lies, oppression, greed, hatred, violence, and death, the world in which Herod lived and the only power and kingship he could understand. When we do not have a Father, we are all of us desperate orphans and must secure our lives by our own wit and will, and “devil take the hindmost”—a tragic state of affairs.
Happily, it is a state of affairs that is utterly illusory. God is real and Christ is real and the stable at Bethlehem and what is revealed there is real and always present to us. We have only to leave everything behind, as the wise men did, and seek it out.
Leave what behind? Well, everything, actually. Not in a particular literal sense of walking away from our lives and all the people and things in it like a modern-day St. Francis. But very much literally in the sense that everything else in our lives that is not imbued with the love of the Father is to be set down and walked away from.
Everything in our life that tells us in any way that we are not held in God’s love daily—all the dark hopeless words coming to us through media, entertainment, family, friends, peers, and our own disbelieving skeptical hearts.
Everything in our life that declares to us that life is found in what we can get, what we have, what we hold onto, what is “ours” and not “theirs.” Everything in our life that breathes fear into us, that tells us we must fight and scrabble and flee to protect the fragile security we have as “our own.”
All of that we must leave behind, if we are to behold that epiphany, that child and his mother, that knowledge of God made known in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Calvary, and on to the ends of the earth.
Am I proposing a media blackout, a radical choice to unplug, a strategic decision to withdraw from the world and its wicked, wicked ways?
Maybe, a little bit anyhow. But more deeply than what we may or may not choose to expose our minds and hearts to is the choice we must make to turn away from all that is not of God and turn more deeply to the living God living in us.
Silence is part of that turning, and prayer. The words of Scripture help us; so do other holy books. The sacraments are so vital that it is unimaginable that we can attain that daily epiphany without their help, especially if we know them for what they are—the living presence of God in his Church until the end of ages.
Above all it is faith and a daily calling on the Lord to come to us and show us not only the way forward but the One who is the Way itself.
You know, we hardly know one thing about those wise men from the East, although literature and legend have imaginatively filled in for our lack of historical knowledge. What we do know is that they arose, went, found, and adored. That is all we know; it is enough.
If 2021 is to be indeed a year of peace and healing individually and communally, it will be on account of our daily choice to rise, go, find, adore, believe, and love the God who has come so very near to us and attends us always. So let’s try to do that, shall we?