Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Column: Epiphany: What you seek is seeking you

The musical accompaniment for this setting of the traditional hymn Conditor alme siderum uses a bloogle resonator, which I find evocative of some of the 'sounds' of space.   If you prefer a more traditional version, try this one from the monks of the Cistercian abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria.  (I am a regular reader of Heiligenkreuz monk Pater Edmund's blog Sancrucensis.)

The column was prompted by Fr. James Kruzynski's reflection at the Vatican Observatory Foundation's blog about what the magi might tell us about paths to the holy.

This column appeared at CatholicPhilly.com on 29 December 2015.

My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and see the presence of God? Psalm 42:3

The Magi are still on the far side of the shelf, separated from the creche by a blooming Christmas cactus and a tumble of ivy.  When I was young, living in a small rural town, the Magi were my favorite characters in the Nativity.  Colorfully attired, riding exotic animals — living in a large family amid dairy farms, babies, mangers and and cows were no mystery to me— they seemed ambassadors from a world as far beyond my reach as the stars.

I imagined what it might be like to peep over the pasture fence and see the flowing silks, the camels, and hear elephants trumpet.  Would I follow them to see where they were going?  Or return to my chores — all unaware of Epiphany passing me by?

Four decades later, these wise ones from the east still capture my imagination, though now I see them as companions, fellow scientists, intently reading what St. Anthony the Great called “God’s other book,” the universe.

Looking for concrete signs in the created world that pointed them toward the presence of God, the Magi were firmly grounded in the practical. Measuring, calculating, and predicting. Methodically proceeding onward.  Yet they burned with a desire to get ever closer to God, a thirst that drove them to travel who-knows-how-far to throw themselves face down in the dust before the Word that set the universe in motion.

In a recent reflection on the Epiphany posted to the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s blog, priest and amateur astronomer James Kruzynski urges us to reflect on own journey to the holy. Are we magi, seeking God in what is around us, in the tangible fabric of the universe?  Are we shepherds, responding to intangible calls, listening for God in our inmost being?

His reflection made me think not only about the myriad paths along which I pursue God, but reminded me God is simultaneously pursuing me, continually revealing himself to us all in what we can see and touch, and in what we cannot.  Aware or unaware, God makes himself known to us.

Magus or shepherd, scientist or mother, the Epiphany reminds me that no matter if I plumb the universe’s depths with quantum mechanics, or head to the basement to throw in another load of laundry, God is there. The living God, for whom I thirst.  The living God, who thirsts for me.

1 comment:

  1. Katherine2:08 PM

    This is lovely -- thank you. Epiphany is one of my favorite feasts. I think of the magi as colleagues, companions, to all scholars.

    Do you know the passage near the end of Evelyn Waugh's novel _Helena_, where she muses about the magi, as kindred souls, and the spiritual dangers of the intellectual?

    (Glad to know about the VOF blog. And I like both versions of Conditor alme siderum!)