Archive - Jan 7, 2018

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Epiphany, Theophany, Old Christmas, and Priests Forever

It is the midnight of Christmas in the old calendar, celebrated by Orthodox Christians. It is bitter cold outside, three degrees the last time I checked, and the furnace is working overtime. There is a commotion, a bright star shining, angels singing, all in my soul, and I, a lowly shepherd am confused and frightened and trying to figure out what it all means.

Saturday was Epiphany, Three Kings Day for the western church. On the front door to our house, we chalked “20 + C + M + B + 18”. I posted a picture on Facebook, including a prayer to go along with it

The three Wise Men,
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar

followed the star of God’s Son who became human
two thousand
and eighteen years ago.
May Christ bless our home
and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

In the morning, I went to a local Orthodox church to join in the celebration of the Feast of the Theophany. As we said the creed, “I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church”, I thought about being baptized and confirmed Congregationalist, received into the Episcopal Church, and worshiping with the Orthodox. I looked at the young boy in the pew in front of me and prayed for him. Had someone prayed for me, the same way when I was young? Had someone else prayed for that person in a similar way? Is there a hidden apostolic succession that ties us together throughout the ages?

As we approached the blessing of the waters, small children ran around, joyful at the expectation of Christmas and at getting splashed with holy water. Women holding onto tradition filled their jars with holy water for the year. I rejoiced in the ample holy water splashed on me at the end of the service and wished I had a jar I could bring home some holy water for my family. A young boy gave me an ice cube from the holy water that he said I should take home to my mother. I carefully tucked it in my coat pocket until I could get in the car and put it in an empty cup.

In the evening, I returned with my daughter for Vespers. At the end of the service, the priest marked us with holy oil, myrrh, or Myron. I savored its smell as I drove my daughter to her grandparents’ house; the chrism of confirmation after the water of baptism. I did not know that Myron was another name for the holy oil. My middle name is Myron. May I too be used by the Holy Spirit to sanctify and consecrate.

I went to bed early and read for a bit more. I am reading “A Priest Forever” by The Rev. Carter Heyward. At times I’ve been sharing quotes from the book on Facebook. This evening, a few quotes jumped out at me. “Any attempt to postpone justice is a sign of weak faith.” A few pages later, she talks about Kairos, God’s time. “Kairos cannot be calculated by clocks, calendars, or conventions. Kairos bursts without warning into chronos”.

I seek to live into Kairos. I experience it when I pray in various churches and monasteries. I experience it when I partake in sacraments. There are moments of Kairos in family life or while spending time with people in need.

My thoughts go back to “A Priest Forever” and I think about excuses that have been given for not welcoming certain people into certain ecclesiastical ordination processes; wrong gender, too old, there’s already too many priests, impediments of health, finances, or family, all of which sound like the excuses for a lack of faith in pursuing God’s justice.

Mine is not a great cause, easily understandable, like Carter Heyward’s quest for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, but it feels like it is of the same essence. It is about renewal. It is about “looking ahead to a future with even more novel forms of ordained ministry” to use the words of a resolution from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s Annual Convention.

The star continues to burn bright in my heart. Kairos has burst in and we are all shepherds at the manger, children running around the church on Christmas Eve, aspirants to holy orders, and priests forever. Amen.