Epiphany: Offering your Gifts
When walking to prayer every day in our monastic community we were greeted by the nativity scene in the gathering space before the prayer hall. It sat in front of three huge evergreens, welcoming us with their aromatic scent every day. Walking by, I tried to look at it with a child-like heart. A heart of open interest and excitement at the story. The anticipation led me at some point to become impatient.
When would they bring the three kings out? Perhaps they are already on the way, somewhere? Are they hidden? I looked around in vain to find them.
Yesterday, on The Eve of Epiphany, I was just barely in time for evening prayer, so I was tempted to quickly walk by the manger. But wait, the child in me said, wait and look. (here is a warning: practicing a child-like attitude will suprise you...) So I gave in and walked over, only to find myself overwhelmed with joy in front of the manger. They finally arrived! They are there! The three kings are there! Surely enough a wise sister had sneaked them in when nobody was watching.
There they were, kneeling at the manger, offering their gifts in elaborate treasure chests: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Some women point out rightly that if it had been three wise women, they would have brought different gifts to the holy child, perhaps a blanket and some food, and they might have watched the baby so Mary could sleep. These would have been wise gifts for a cold infant in winter and an exhausted mother.
But when we translate the story into our own inward journey, bringing our most precious gifts might not be so inappropriate, after all. If we read the Christmas story inwardly, with the eyes and ears of our heart, we find the journey of the three kings turns into a journey towards Divine wisdom.
Overjoyed upon arrival, this very wisdom leads us to give our most precious gifts. We want to translate the gold, frankincense, and myrrh into a giving of our own most precious gifts to the Divine child.
Touched by this Divine encounter, the wise travelers open their treasure chests to offer what they have. And behold, their treasures have been transformed, too, just as their hearts. So they bring their gold, which is their openness to getting to know God, as Hildegard has it, their frankincense, which is the humble realization of our shortcomings and failings, and myrrh, our compelling desire to give our entire self to the Divine. And what are the precious gifts you desire to bring?
Be one of the wise travelers: Walk into the story one more time
So before we wrap up the Christmas season, and put the Christmas decorations away, we want to send you on a little journey one more time. Here is a series of photos from an amazing nativity scene we saw at St. Leo's Abbey in Florida in 2016 and which I enjoyed putting together these last few days. You can follow the journey of the wise travelers from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Here is the twist. As we have been guiding you through the 12 Days of Christmas this one is on you. Let your own heart tell the story, using the tools you gained on the way: the virgin heart, the open soul, the child-like view, and the knowledge of the heart to rebirth the story in your own being.
As you walk through these images, you will arrive with the wise men in Jerusalem, a buzzing oriental and diverse town, walk over the markets, watch the sellers, sit down to enjoy the magicians, smell some spices, ask your questions, search for love Divine. Ride your camel further to little Bethlehem, find the shepherds, and yes, even the drummer boy. Kneel down among them and bring the gift you have.
If you want to use the comment section to share your King's story or the gifts you bring, be aware that you need not give your full name. You contribution can remain as private as you wish.
Peace on your journey!