Binocular Vision and Living – The Single Eye

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23) RSV

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23) KJV

There are many aspects of our life as disciples of Jesus Christ that seem to require us to find and live in a kind of balance or creative tension. Let me name several:

  • Unconditional acceptance and authentic boundaries in our expression of love towards others.
  • Giving and receiving. The need to know what we need, seek it, and receive it and the need to be pouring out our life to provide for the needs of others before we consider our own needs.
  • The need to be silent and the need to speak.
  • The need to be sober in our judgments and yet to judge no one.
  • Faith and good works in the context of God’s work of salvation.
  • Personal and corporate.
  • Dynamic/changing and regular/consistent/changless.
  • New  being in Christ, zealous for His purpose and an idler and sinner.
  • Death and resurrection.

There are, obviously, many more. The Bible is filled with these paradoxes. What are we to do? How do we live out such commands on the part of God?

One answer that is often opted for is to consider these aspects as somehow in an adversarial relationship as if they do not belong together. In such an approach the proponent does, at times, regard the other facet as certainly belonging in the Christian life but not in the vicinity of their favored facet. An example is the classic adversarial relationship that has been set up by many between faith and works. Works belong in the Christian life but not in the vicinity of the provision of salvation which is by faith alone they say. Another approach is not to exclude one facet for the other but rather to craft a kind of détente relationship. Yet another approach is to try and achieve a life in which the facets live in sort of a “tag team” relationship with one another. Or, to put it another way, a kind of pendulum life in which they swing from one extreme to the other to arrive at an average halfway in between. Yet another approach is to adopt the language of a “creative tension” or “balance.” In this approach the facets are portrayed as opposites or antithetical but partners or companions that provide needed balance for the other.

I would like to put forward the conviction that none of these really satisfies the full mandate of the Gospel. Please do not get the impression that I am saying that some of the approaches all too briefly described above do not have their good points or approximate the truth. They do. I am, of course, overstating the other approaches in order to make my point. But…. The Gospel mandates union not simply partnership and companionship and balance.

We are to live the paradoxes not solve them.

Revisit the passage above from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Notice that Jesus does not say “eyes,” but “eye.” Jesus speaks of seeing in the singular. I know, Jesus is speaking about good and evil and how we cannot live a dual life. But, permit me to use the statement to make a different point (an ancient Rabbinic practice after all. If you will not allow for this usage, I understand. Disregard the association with the passage altogether and continue with the analogy.)… One eye – one vision. Think of the way in which paradoxes are meant to be lived in terms of your eyes. We have, along with other creatures, a unique way of seeing. We have binocular vision. When you look at something you normally look at it with both eyes at the same time. The eyes do not fight one another; switch off; balance one another; or any other penultimate way of seeing. They see as one eye. We don’t even think about the fact. We simply see. We don’t think about seeing out of two eyes. We experience seeing as seeing with a singular vision. The eyes are united in their seeing. When we see in this way the world ceases to be flat. We see with depth and perspective. Neither eye sees fully. Yet each eye is healthy in its seeing as an eye. They are not simply partners. They do not consider themselves as parties to a contract of cooperation, each complete in and of itself. Neither does one healthy eye compete with the other eye to be the one to see particular things. They both see together. They die to individualistic seeing and surrender themselves to the formation of a unified vision. The analogy, as do all analogies, falls short. Nonetheless, perhaps the analogy does help portray the mysterious union.

Fr. Thomas

Sincerity

1 Corinthians 5.8 “Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with theunleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (See also Joshua 24.14; Tobit 8.7; Wisdom of Solomon 1.1; 2 Corinthians 1.12 Corinthians 2.17)

Our life as disciples needs to exhibit sincerity. But, as I have considered this word, I have realized that, perhaps, I at least have misunderstood it. Quite often, I have confused sincerity with intense emotional content accompanied by dramatic action in contrast with an attribute that is simple, quiet, and yet very powerful.

Sincerity is, simply put, being clear and honest. Notice that in the passage above the word “truth” accompanies the word “sincerity.” Sincerity is not about convincing the other person through muscling tactics such as intense emotion or dramatic action or needless repetition. What is more, the person receiving the expression of sincerity has, quite often, been taught to expect emotion, drama, and repetition as the criteria of sincerity. To make the whole matter more complex, we have been taught to even suspect, on occasions, that when an expression is attended by too much drama, emotion, and repetition it is probably insincere. We suspect that the person is not being sincere and therefore not telling the truth! Once again note the linkage in the passage above between sincerity and truth. This makes for very confusing and ambiguous circumstances and way of life.

Sincerity may be attended by a certain amount of emotion, drama, and repetition. There is no reason why it shouldn’t. However, this is not necessarily the case. Rather, I would like to put forward the conviction that sincerity is an expression of truth that is clear, simple, clean, regular, consistent, and direct (not aggressive). Note that I am not equating sincerity with certainty. Sincerity issues from faith and faithfulness (fidelity) not certainty. Sincerity offers hope by way of its gentle power not necessarily guarantees. It offers by the “follow-through” that accompanies it, a way forward. Sincerity offers love that sets the recipient free to respond to clear parameters that offer life as contrasted with vague parameters that manipulate or offer no clear way forward.

The spirit of sincerity finds its home in the heart, where the “Ruach Adonai” (breath of God) dwells, and issues forth from there integrating different aspects of our inner life – thoughts, motives, identity, character – to give life to others through our words and deeds. “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33.4)

Fr. Thomas

Stopping to Consider and Commit

My brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

For the sake of our growth into the full likeness of Christ Jesus by the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the benefit of others bothinside and outside the Body of Christ …

  • Let us endeavor to be attentive to the current objects of our attention by keeping track of and considering our current behaviors, words, and a regular examination of the aspects of our life – body, mind, will, and heart. In so doing let us ask the Holy Spirit to show us the current condition of our life in Christ so that we may both rejoice and repent in faith, hope, and love.
  • Let us be aware of the fact that the way we live affects our attention/conviction and our attention/conviction affects the way we live. (What we believe affects our behavior and our behavior affects what we believe.)
  • Let us begin, once we have some data, to ask the following questions in specific terms: “Why do I pay attention to what I pay attention to? And “How does it affect my way of life in life-giving and life-robbing ways?
  • Let us endeavor, by the grace that God provides, to be more regularly and consistently attentive to the Lord throughout the day by:
    • journeying together in a regular and consistent fellowship of accountability and encouragement under the authority of the Holy Spirit.
    • being attentive to the Word of the Lord and the work of God in and through the lives of our brothers and sisters among the saints.
    • being attentive to the aspects of a healthy spiritual life as communicated to us through the rhythms of the “Church Year” and commit ourselves to living in accordance with the themes of the season of Great Lent that we might more deeply live a resurrected life.
      • Scripture – personal and/or congregational according to seasonal emphasis
      • Prayer – personal and/or congregational according to a seasonal emphasis
      • Fasting – addressing, in a serious manner, our bodily appetites
      • Almsgiving – pouring out our life in some way on behalf of the poor/needy
      • It must be noted that our observance of these disciplines should not be based on our personal preferences or convictions of what is appropriate. It is not about what we want or would prefer to do, but about what we need to do. The decision regarding how we observe these disciplines should, therefore, for our salvation’s sake be the result of an authentic conversation with the historical tradition and our current life-giving fellowship of accountability and encouragement.
  • Let us count the cost, as Jesus encouraged us to do, for the sake of being able to build to completion not for the sake of never beginning to build.

Fr. Thomas

Suffering in the Flesh and Pre-Lent

We are getting ready to leave the season of Theophany (Epiphany) and enter into Great Lent. Both the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox traditions provide a specific “pre-Lent” time of preparation. There is great wisdom here. As human beings, we are designed to move from one activity or emphasis to another via a time of transition. Transition is designed to, first, keep the best of the past (even the worst can be the best if we submit it to Christ) and bring it into union with “things to come,” forming a unified journey of wholeness. Transition also, secondly, gives us the opportunity to ready ourselves for the “new thing” that God desires to do in our life. We can look/walk forward.

Extreme Humility

The pre-Lenten transition is a time designed to encourage us to embrace the truth that our inner life and outer life affect one another – what we do affects what we believe (our operative convictions) and what we believe affects what we do (our words and deeds). In the middle of this relationship of mutual affect, the Holy Tradition says, needs to be a specific discipline of life that is life-giving in both directions. There are inner disciplines that are designed to transform our words and deeds and outer disciplines that are designed to transform our inner life (thoughts, emotions, will, desires, etc.). There are four disciplines that, during the pre-Lenten mini-season, we are encouraged to begin to practice an observe throughout Lent. They are:

1 &2)Increased reading of Scripture and prayer that are designed to prepare us to die with Christ and be raised with Christ in the particular area of our life where it’s is needed and/or continue to establish that area where such dying and rising has already taken place.

3)Fasting to address the all too powerful domination of our bodily appetites that hinder our growth in Christ.

4)Almsgiving – pouring out our life in some specific way on behalf of the poor and needy.

These four disciplines are, in fact, ways in which we take the admonition of the apostles seriously:

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4.7-10).

The result is spiritual transformation in the Holy Spirit in due time. This is the reason we endeavor with all the strength that is in us to embrace the Holy Tradition in sincerity and truth – that we might begin to reign with Christ even now in the time of our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11).

With all of this in mind, I include in this post a reflection from the devotional series I have recommended many times before, “Dynamis.”

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1 Peter 4:1-11, especially vss. 1, 2: “…he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”  

Earlier in this Epistle, Saint Peter declared that Christ suffered death “…in the flesh… ” purposely: “…to bring us to God…” (1 Pt. 3:18).  Now, when he says, “…with the same mind…” (1 Pt. 4:1), he urges us to embrace an intention similar to the Lord’s.

Be sure to note this expression of his, to ‘suffer in the flesh,’ which should not be applied solely to martyrs or confessors, for a vital truth would be lost.  Suffering is common to everyone, having many forms: persecution, injury, disease, financial reverses, even withdrawal from specific sins, vices, and indulgence.  While Saint Peter’s primary concern throughout this First Epistle is with direct, physical persecution; still he knew that ‘suffering in the flesh’ includes far more than afflictions imposed on Christ’s holy martyrs and confessors (vss. 2-6).  He knew well the ‘suffering in the flesh’ that comes whenever one indulges in or approves sinful living as ‘normal’ or acceptable, but then for Christ’s sake, withdraws and ceases to “…run…in the same flood of dissipation…” (vs. 4).  Learn from Saint Peter about the kind of ‘suffering in the flesh’ that comes when we withdraw from the “…flood of dissipation…” (vs. 4).

The chief Apostle here focuses on the sufferings that come to us when we have “…ceased from sin…” (vs. 1).  As we would expect, the Apostle counsels us no longer living “…in the flesh for the lusts of men…” (vs. 2).  We should avoid “…lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (vs. 3), having determined to withdraw from all indulgence.  Then, he turns to the social isolation that follows when we no longer run “…in the same flood of dissipation…” (vs. 4).  As The Orthodox Study Bible notes, Saint Peter referred to vices prevalent in Asia Minor “…where excessive drinking, along with unspeakable practices took place in connection with the worship of various deities….”  But these vices are well-known today even though they are not part of the worship of deities as in the first century!

Even as a fledgling disciple, Saint Peter had learned from Christ the captivating power of a sinful mind: “…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, at evil eye, blasphemy. pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk. 7:21-23).

Saint John of Sinai adds other insights to those of the Lord Jesus and Saint Peter, and he commends the pain of struggling for chastity and purity, both in our inner and outer life, especially now that we have vital hope of ceasing from sin (see 1 Pt. 4:1-2).  Thus, “…purity means that we put on the angelic nature.  Purity is the longed-for house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart.  Purity is a supernatural denial of nature….He is pure…[who] expels fleshly love with divine love, and…has extinguished the fire of passion by the fire of Heaven.”

Saint John’s thought is not limited to sexual purity, which the ‘modern’ ear hears: “Chastity is the name which is common to all the virtues.”  In the struggle to gain purity, God’s Spirit helps us take the steps that necessarily bring pain: observe the passions, understand them, repent seriously, confess deeply, accept bodily hungers, abandon self-reliance, and struggle for unceasing prayer.  As, Saint John adds, “Let no one thoroughly trained in purity attribute its attainment to himself.  For it is impossible for anyone to conquer his own nature.  When nature is defeated, it should be recognized that this is due to the presence of Him Who is above nature.”  Indeed, we do not endure such necessary sufferings apart from God, but, rather, in Him.

I am caught in the depths of sins.  O Savior, draw me out of passion, and save me!

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Let us heed the exhortation as we make our way to Great Lent.

God Bless,

Fr. Thomas

Theophany — The Moment of True Knowledge

Archimandrite Sophrony

“Of a certainty no initiative of mine provoked the happenings in my inner life. But God of His providence, which is known only to Him, vouchsafed to visit me and, as it were, communicate His eternal Being. His holy hand mercilessly cast me, His creation, into indescribable depths, where, stunned and appalled, I contemplated realtities that transcended my understanding… By ‘knowledge’ I mean ingress into the Act of Eternity: ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God’ (John 17:3). In the hours when Divine Love touched me I ‘recognized’ the approach of God. ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.’ (1 John 4:16). After my visitation from on High I read the Gospel with a different awareness — profoundly and gratefully rejoiced at finding confirmation of my own experience. This wondrous congruity between the most vital elements of my consciousness of God and the data of the New Testament Revelation is incalculably dear to my soul — a gift from above, God Himself praying in me. I believe this.”

Archimandrite Sophrony, We Shall See Him As He Is, pg. 7-8

Inner Stillness — Outer Life

Inner stillness is a paradox on many levels. It is not one thing and then another. It is the union of two things that manifest simultaneously. It is, for example, the union of an inner spiritual state with an outer, practical lifestyle.

The integration/reconciliation/consummation of all aspects of the human person in/as Christ Jesus by grace. The tranquility and ease of complete conscious presence without sluggishness and the vigilance of instantaneous responsiveness as the fruit of unceasing preparedness without rashness or aggression by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Thomas

“Mirror, Mirror …”

I have been encountering mirrors lately. So, I thought I would reflect on them a little (pun intended). As I have considered them it occurs to me that mirrors can be a great aid to understanding the themes of Theophany which are to: “receive the light, ever more fully live in the light, and continue to be becoming more fully bearers of the light by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Let me rephrase and expand this statement a little in terms of the Orthodox gospel reading for the feast, the baptism of Jesus. The baptismal narrative is multifaceted. Basically, but not exclusively, the baptism of Our Lord is concerned with:

  • revelation and repentance
  • the universal and the personal character of salvation – the light of Christ is offered freely to each and to all
  • how the inner and outer life of man is purified and shines with the radiance of the glory of Christ

What, in essence, are mirrors? They are communicative instruments. They communicate by reflecting. This fact is both an accurate representation of the work of the Holy Spirit and, I believe, a conviction that is a misunderstanding of His work.

First, the misunderstanding. I have heard the analogy of the disciple as a mirror many many times in sermons and retreats. (I may, unfortunately, have used it myself. I can’t remember.) Essentially, the analogy is one that seeks to communicate the importance of being a light to the world – “let your light so shine before men…” So far, so go. However, the analogy breaks down at this point. A mirror is not inhabited by the light. A mirror is not united with the light – without separation and without confusion. The mirror is unaffected by the light. The light simply bounces off the mirror. That is how it “shines” or “offers light to the world.” We are not supposed to be mirrors of the glory of God. We are intended to, by grace, actually become light to the world. It is Christ in union with His Body who are part of the entire light that God offers to the world. (God’s creation and the bodiless hosts also shine with the light of His glory according to their kind.) There is a BIG difference.

Now the accurate representation. Mirrors reflect. In terms of the disciple. Life is the mirror. God holds the mirror in such a way as to have what it is reflecting off of it point directly into our eyes. The nitty gritty circumstances, relationships, our deeds, our words, and inner landscape that make up our life act, quite often, as a mirror. They reflect. They reflect many things but I am going to focus my attention on just two things. The most important thing they reflect is God. And, because they reflect God, they show us to us. We have the opportunity to really behold ourselves. The important question of the Theophany season is, “Will we receive what we are shown, allow what is shown to change and establish us in Christ, and allow the light of Christ Himself to shine forth from us into the lives of others?” (see James 1.23 and 1 Corinthians 13.12)

There are several ways of responding to the us we behold in the mirror. Think, for a minute, about what you do when you see your image reflected in a mirror of some kind. What process do you go through? Some questions:

  • Do you say, “Man I’m good! As a matter of fact, I’m the best!”
  • Do you instantly look yourself over and adjust things so you will “look better” to/for others?
  • Do you see a finished product or a work in progress?
  • Do you see possibilities or impossibilities?
  • Is looking in the mirror a prelude to trying harder or trusting acceptance?
  • Do you receive the image you see as an indication of the truth that brings with it an opportunity to delight in aspects of what you see that are the very living Christ Himself within you as well as realize an opportunity to grow in other aspects of your life where you do not see Christ?
  • Is beholding an opportunity to condemn or delight?

Mirrors are a very good example of how Theophany works. It is a time to see. To see what is revealed – the truth in Christ Jesus. Where is Theophany taking us? Straight into Great Lent ! ! Lent is the season devoted to faithfully addressing what we see in the mirror by the grace of God. The journey of transformation includes delight as well as sorrow – a joyful sorrow. It is a season in which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in establishing those areas that shine with the glory of Christ and addressing those that do not. We see Christ and we don’t see Christ. We learn how to rightly handle the truth that God shines directly into our eyes.

Onward, in due course, toward Great Lent walking in the light …

Fr. Thomas

Jesus, the Leper, Blessed Teresa and Social Justice

Jesus Heals the Leper

[40] And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” [41] Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” [42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. [43] And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, [44] and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” [45] But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. (Mark 1.40-45)

“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him”

“The poor are thirsty for water but also for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked and need clothing, but also need human dignity and compassion for those who sin. The poor have no shelter and need shelters made of bricks, but also of a joyful heart, compassionate and full of love. They are sick and need medical attention, but also a helping hand and welcoming smile. The outcasts, those who are rejected, the unloved, prisoners, alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables and lepers…, those in doubt and confusion, those who have not been touched by the light of Christ, those starving for the word and peace of God, sad and afflicted souls…, those who are a burden to society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile and no longer know what it means to receive a little human warmth, a gesture of love and friendship – all of them, they turn to us to receive a little bit of comfort. If we turn our backs on them, we turn our backs on Christ.” Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), Missionary Sisters of Charity, Letter of 10/04/1974 to her co-workers (borrowed from the “Daily Gospel,” a publication of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine of the USCCB)

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My desire this season is to be focused deeply on the themes of Theophany and the aspect of it that involves the bursting forth of the transformative light of Christ through us. As a result, I have been doing some research on Blessed Mother Teresa as an example of authentic Theophany. I have come across many articles and “awards” associated with social justice that have Mother Teresa’s name attached to them – “Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice,” awarded by the Global Harmony Foundation – is one example. The Nobel Peace Prize, of which Mother Teresa was a recipient, is another example.

Okay, so I have a question which should spark some deep thought and a couple of comments … What was her “strategy?” Did she have a “strategy” or was she simply caring for a poor and/or dying person who needed tangible love as a member of a community who had recognized that was the way Christ Jesus desired to touch others in and through them? Could it be summed up in one of the statements of the “City Wide Prayer Movement” as an effort to “… mobilize a united, praying Body of Christ to leverage a sustained kingdom influence that impacts all spheres of local culture and results in measurable societal impact.”? Am I comparing apples and oranges?Was the ministry of Mother Teresa inspired and fueled primarily by a desire for social justice or was it a bursting forth of a beatific manifestation of social justice the fruit of her efforts?! Does it matter as long as it gets done or does the reason, apart from a sinister one, really matter?! Has Mother Teresa been co-opted?!

My questions may be regarded by some as passé. Nonetheless perhaps they are important …

Fr. Thomas

 

Authentic Learning

Recently, from at least four different sources, I have been reminded of how authentic learning takes place. When I use the term “authentic learning,” I mean learning that is rooted deep within every facet of our being and, through this learning, integrates every facet of our being and expresses itself through every facet of our being.

What are the basic characteristics of such learning?

There are many. Let me list five:

  1. The master has the opportunity to instill and express, in some manner, his or her mastery in the student.
  2. Slow enough to allow for true rootedness and integration.
  3. Result of perseverance through the barrier of frustration and boredom.
  4. Pursued by a community of learners who have the freedom to learn at the pace that fosters both #1, #2, and #3 and challenges each student to respect the other student’s learning journey of learning.
  5. It never ends — Alleluia  ! ! !

I believe this is the strategy of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Fr. Thomas

The Magi and the Theophany/Epiphany

The Journey of the Magi - Tissot

I have always been intrigued by the Wise Men in the birth narrative of the Messiah. They are, among all of those who appear inthe story, in a class by themselves. The rest seem, to me, to quite reasonably belong in the story. But, the Wise Men? The prophecy in Isaiah 60.1-7 speaks of them. In spite of the fact that there were plenty of people from others nations in the region of Palestine at the time, there was a specific need, in God’s economy, for them. What attribute did they possess that made them necessary to the narrative?

Well, there are a BUNCH of theories out there about the identity and role of these guys‼ Everything from the descendents of the Hebrew rabbis from the Babylonian exile, to Brahmans from India or Zoroastrian priests who Jesus later visited and learned from during His “hidden years‼” Yikes.

Who were the Magi – the “Wise Men,” most likely?  They were, perhaps, “sacred scribes,” who studied historical and sacred writings. The ancient Magi were priests/astrologers or spiritual advisors who were credited with great spiritual wisdom for the practical administration of the kingdom in the Median court. (Pharaoh had them in his court too. Remember Moses duel with them?) The Median court had Magi. Darius the Great established them over the state religion of Persia. Later, the Babylonians took power over the Mede-Persian Empire. At the time of Jesus’ birth this area was ruled by the Parthian Empire. Perhaps they were from Sheba. The prophecy does mention Sheba. And, the Queen of Sheba was a seeker after truth (I kings 10.1-13). Whoever they were, they had credentials. They carried weight. Herod received them without question and was deeply persuaded that something of historical importance had taken place.

Mysterious and definintely impressive characters to be sure and rightly so.

So why the Magi from the Parthian Empire? Theological and human reasons. The Magi represent, theologically, all that is wise and powerful in this world. The Magi were rich, famous, regarded as possessors and guardians of wisdom. But, the Magi represent, on a personal level, the genuine seeker of this world who, in spite of the wealth, and power, and wisdom, know there is more and yearn for it.

Perhaps, in the beginning, the journey of the Magi had to do with philosophical/religious curiosity. After all, they were seekers after the truth. Reminds me of the Greeks who said to the Apostles, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Whatever the reason, even though they were rich and famous it did cost them. Time, energy, money, potentially their lives, potentially their reputations, and the validity of their own religious beliefs. Whatever the reason, they put it all on the line for sake of fulfilling their desire to see and know. It was, for the Wise Men, an authentic spiritual pilgrimage. The homage they offered was not nominal or token. It was from the heart from which their yearning issued and was met and fulfilled in Jesus.

Speaking of the Wise Men, the author of the wonderful little volume, Christ the Vision, says the following:

“The light shines within them, enabling them to see beyond the swaddling clothes, the silence and the utter poverty. The Star had entered into their hearts, and it allowed them to see with a new light; he divine light shone through all the men dispersed.” (pg. 13)

The Wise Men we meet in the New Testament had persevered in following the leading of the star. As a result of this authentic perseverance, perhaps, that which was external to them and the result of mere philosophical curiosity, had, mysteriously, become internalized and the result of a deep and inextinguishable heart-felt yearning for fulfillment.

The Magi had, perhaps, become those who no longer desired to “looked at and grasp at” power, wealth, and worldly wisdom and be satisfied. They had become, as a result of their journey and journey’s end in Christ, men who were able to “looking into and deeply receive” real truth and wealth and power and authority. They had become men who could truly see. The visitation of the Wise Men is not an example of an interfaith gathering in which everybody affords to one another encouragement to “find their own path.” Remember, a pilgrimage is kind of a “one way trip” in terms of faith and way of life. A true pilgrimage is, by definition, a journey of transformation. Forever changed. You come back different than you were, in some significant way, when you left.

Epiphany/Theophany season is one in which we are encouraged and exhorted to become, by the grace of the Holy Spirit men and women who live lives characterized by the capacity and practice of looking into the depths of circumstances and persons and responding to the hidden Christ made manifest by their perseverance. Epiphany/Theophany is an invitation to be changed by what we are invited to see.

Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. Ask and it will be given. Those who have eyes to see, let them see. Epiphany/Theophany is not just about being “wowed” by the glory of God. It is about being changed – transformed – by the Epiphany/Theophany.

Lord, heal my blindness by the light of your glory shining upon it and piercing through it making contact with the desire to see that resides deep within …

Fr. Thomas