Led Onward by the Light
I guess you could say that we are on a kind of pilgrimage, my husband and I. Last week, on December 30, we journeyed to Florida. That day was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. I thought it appropriate that we travel to Panama City Beach, Florida on that day, as Panama City Beach was his favorite place on this earth. During his years in the Army Air Corps (early Air Force) during World War II, he had been stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, the only Air Force base, I read, which is open to secular travel. Dad fell in love with the seemingly endless miles of beach with pure, soft, white sand. He swore that someday he would buy a home and retire here. Around 1988, newly retired, Dad and Mom did in fact buy a condo here at Panama City Beach, right on the white sand. Years later they bought a second one. They would come here each year after Thanksgiving, till Christmas. Then go back up north to spend Christmas with their children and grandchildren, my mom’s idea, not my dad’s. Then after Christmas return to Panama City Beach till Easter. Although this was a favorite place of my parents, I never came here until after they died.
Last December 30, when my father died, we celebrated his life (had his funeral) on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6. What an appropriate day to honor my father. Epiphany is the day when Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Christ’s birth. For Western Christians, January sixth is the twelfth day of Christmas. Technically you should not take down your Christmas decorations till after this day. The Feast of Epiphany is the day when we read the story of the Magi from the East, who, although they were not Jewish, followed ancient Jewish prophecies, and also the light of a new, bright star, on a long journey which led them ultimately to the Christ child. Some believe these Magi were actually Zoroastrians. Later Christian legend says there were three, and names them, but the bible actually does not say how many there were.
Most scholars, as well as other ancient sources, say there were many Magi. Magi were learned folks, ancient scientists of sorts, astronomers, and also holy people. I think of them sort of like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. I do not call them Wise Men because technically, Magi could be male or female. In any case, they followed the light, which led them to the Christ, whom they honored with three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (See the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2, verses 1-12). There have been many astronomical theories as to what this bright star could have been: a supernova, the conjunction of two planets, etc. Just a couple years ago a doctoral student at Harvard Divinity School, Brett Landau, published a book of a recently discovered ancient manuscript, called The Revelation of the Magi. This manuscript claims that the the Light the Magi followed was none other than Christ, the Morningstar, himself. Landau’s book of that same name (The Revelation of the Magi) shows many ancient works of art that depict Christ within the star.
The Magi represent all of us who are on a journey, a spiritual pilgrimage, seeking to follow the Light, and to let that holy light illumine our hearts, minds, souls.
In addition to tomorrow being the Feast of Epiphany and the day of Christmas (for the Orthodox)) or twelfth day of Christmas, it is also for many of us the beginning of a New Year. Many of us have reviewed the past year, and imagined the year ahead. We have thought about resolutions, things we wish to leave behind on our journey through this life, habits or patterns of behavior which we know are harmful or destructive or no longer serve us. We have also considered adopting new behaviors, commitments, or activities which we know will help us to live more fully in the Light.
The word “Epiphany,” as we know, also means insight, revelation, enlightenment, “Ah-ha!” At Epiphany every one of us is invited to embark on a spiritual journey, to reflect on those places of darkness within us, and to invite the Light into those dark places, to illuminate or reveal them to us, but also to lead us on a new path, into greater and greater Light.
My favorite part of the story of the Magi is the last line of the story, “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:12)
I believe my parents wanted us to keep one of their condos, so that we too could journey to this sacred place of white sand and brilliant sunlight dancing on the dazzling sea. I decided to use my part of the inheritance to buy one, so I could journey to this place, and feel close to my father and mother. I also desired a sacred place to which I can journey, where I can retreat from the daily tasks of life, and open myself more fully to the Light of Christ. Like the Magi I hope to“return home by another road,” by pledging myself to a new beginning, a new commitment to let myself be led onward, more and more and more in my daily life, by the Light of Christ, our Morning Star.
How about you? Tomorrow, January 6, as we begin this journey of Epiphany, what darkness in you needs to have God’s Light shed upon it? What new road do you need to take in your life? Can you open yourself to be led onward by God’s Unfailing Light?
This day may you see God’s Light in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God’s Light to all you encounter.
Linda Forsberg, Copyright January 5, 2015
This blog is dedicated to my father, Clifford B. Forsberg, a light to me always. I give thanks that you are now with Mom, your beloved Helen, and that both of you are enveloped in God’s Brilliant, Dazzling Eternal Light.
Photo credits: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming; View from the Condo at Panama City Beach, FL; Church of Saint Paul, Turkey; Three Magi from this year’s Christmas pageant at church; Victoria exiting the Cloisters, New York City; top of Kitchen Mesa Trail, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico; Ted at beach at Camp Helen, Panama City Beach, FL; Dad and Victoria on their shared birthday, which was his last birthday, his 90th.