Today is Epiphany, which is when the church celebrates the coming of the wise men, and the Orthodox church also celebrates the baptism of Christ. Other than Pascha, Epiphany is my favorite feast. The church is decorated with vases of water with white floating candles. The priest prays the great blessing over the waters and sprinkles everyone with holy water. Here’s an excerpt:
Today the grace of the Holy Spirit hath descended on the waters in the likeness of a dove. Today has shone the Sun that setteth not, and the world is lighted by the light of the Lord. Today the moon shineth with the world in its radiating beams. Today the shining stars adorn the universe with the splendor of their radiance. Today the clouds from heaven moisten mankind with showers of justice. Today the Uncreated One accepteth of His own will the laying on of hands by His own creation. Today the Prophet and Forerunner draweth nigh to the Master, and halteth in trembling when he witnesseth the condescension of God towards us. Today the waters of the Jordan are changed into healing by the presence of the Lord. Today the whole universe is watered by mystical streams. Today the sins of mankind are blotted out by the waters of the Jordan. Today hath paradise been opened to mankind, and the Sun of righteousness hath shone for us.
￼No matter how much I squirm and doubt, those lines are lovely to me. At the end of the service everyone goes forward to get their bottles of holy water filled. I like the idea of water as a healing force, a blessing upon us.
I like the vision of Jesus submerging himself in the very waters he created, declaring himself one with the earth. Perhaps that is the Jesus I can believe in, the one who isn’t afraid to be swallowed by the world, the one who knows that sometimes going under is the only way you can be saved, the one who knows the earth is full of healing essence. This Jesus, he is a little strange, but I think that’s why I like him so much. Somehow the water has changed him, or maybe my perception of him. The world is full of mystery.
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I had every intention of going to church tonight, but I didn’t. I even took clothes for the kids to change into after school. But it was my first day back to work after Christmas break and I had a long, tiring, busy day. And I got a bit of bad news at the end of the day. And I just didn’t have it in me to drive an hour to church in rush hour traffic (yes, we live an hour away from our church – opposite ends of the Nashville area). An excuse? Maybe so. But the truth.
But remember, this is my year to believe that I am enough. So even though I didn’t bite the bullet and let myself be inconvenienced a little tonight, I will try not to beat myself up. I think I’ll light a candle or two at home tonight and I might read through the entire Blessing of the Waters. I might read the poem “Ask Me” by William Stafford or “Water” by Li-Young Lee to help me reflect on the power of water in our lives.
May you be blessed by gifts tonight – whether the gifts of the Magi, the gift of water, or some other kind of gift known only by you.
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I wrote about Epiphany (and the Thai holiday Songkran!) here if you’d like to read more.