Epiphany…

The first picture that comes to my mind is of the fabled three magi visiting baby Jesus in the manger. No one really knows how many magi travelled, guided by that bright star, to find the place. But this week, we celebrate their arrival. I wonder how each of them would describe his own journey and arrival in terms of an epiphany.

At mass this morning, our pastor reminded us of the definition of epiphany — that moment of awakening. Miriam-Webster defines it as a sudden manifestation or perception, an illuminating discovery. Our pastor suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst of epiphany for many of us. What an interesting thought. All this social-distancing and isolation, hunkering down at home, has given us a new appreciation of what we once took for granted. Watching people being deprived of their health, livelihoods, and basic necessities has brought out a deeper and more widespread sense of charity and community. And many people have discovered what’s really important in their lives. Both societal and personal epiphanies have definitely occurred.

So, as many around the world celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, let’s each take some time to reflect on our own personal epiphanies of the past year. And let’s step into this new year with a better sense of what’s truly important and of how we can be our best selves going forward.

Happy New Year! Be safe and be well. 🙂

Advent 2020: Four Signs of Hope

Advent is a season of hope.

For Christians, it’s a season of anticipation and preparation, getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We believe that God took human form and came to show us immense love. By participating in Advent, we hope to ready our hearts and homes to welcome more of that kind of love into our lives. Because love is the bottom line, isn’t it?

I’ve been decorating my house this past week, as I’m sure many of you have been doing, too. I started thinking about hope and how our choices of decorations can reflect hope. I’ve also been watching the news, which, again, I’m sure many of you have also been doing. Hope is sometimes harder to find there. But not impossible. Here are four signs of hope that caught my attention this week. Maybe you can think of others.

A Covid-19 vaccine. Several companies have been working like our lives depend on it (because they do) and they’ve finally developed versions of a highly effective vaccine. Distribution is about to begin. Of course, it won’t be immediately available to those of us who fall into the lower risk category. But the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight. If that’s not reason to hope, I don’t know what is.

Snow. I usually start my holiday decorating by adorning our windows with snowflake stick-ons. Then, I pull out every snowperson decoration I own. Some people set up elaborate Christmas villages on fluffy snowscapes. Others inflate snowmen or whole snowfamilies in their front yards. I live in New England, which means there may be snow on the ground for Christmas, but I’ll bet that people in warmer climates still use images of snow in their decorating. Why? Is it because we love snowstorms and shoveling and icy road conditions? I think not. It’s because there’s beauty in snow. And fun. So, we choose to celebrate the good over the not so good, when it comes to snow. We hope for the beauty of a quiet snowfall or the exhilaration of building snowpeople, instead of clinging to the downside of a snowy season. That’s hope in action, in my opinion.

Lights. I like to wrap my Christmas tree in all white lights. It makes me think of a starry sky. And many houses (not mine ;)) are draped in a variety of colorful lights. Some people put electric candles in their windows. Locally, there’s even a zoo, a motor speedway, and a national shrine each boasting light displays worth traveling for. It’s a dark time of year in the northern hemisphere, and celebrating with lights reminds us that darkness, both literal and figurative, is temporary. There’s hope for light at the end of whatever your dark tunnel might be.

Evergreens. Whether you bring in a freshly cut pine tree and pine branches, or you put up a fake tree and light a pine-scented candle, we gravitate toward evergreens in our decorating schemes. Why? This one’s fairly obvious, especially for those of us in colder climates. Trees, bushes, lawns, and gardens go dormant for the winter. A lot of what we see outdoors looks dead. But evergreens remind us that there’s still life in our landscapes and that spring will come again. For me, the smell of fresh pine is the smell of hope.

My decorating isn’t done yet, how about yours? There are still a few weeks before Christmas. 😉 I intend to enjoy every minute of them. Advent 2020 has given me the unexpected gift of slowing down enough to appreciate the season and to savor the hope it embodies. My hope is that you each find that same gift this year. God bless.

Gratitude Spiral: Day 137

Today, I’m grateful for Easter Sunday, which happens to fall on my parents’ wedding anniversary this year. Two blessings in one day.

I’m blessed to have both of my parents still living, and relatively healthy. And I’m blessed to have been raised in the Catholic faith and to have made it my own as an adult. Easter celebrates the most amazing gift, the most wonderful sign of sacrificial love, and a power that I can barely begin to understand. So, I rest in that incredible gift today, with an attitude of gratitude.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 136

Today, I’m grateful for live-streamed church services.

Technology has its perks in this time of social distancing. (It also has the power to suck us in and waste an awful lot of our time, but I won’t dwell on that today. :)) Today, I’m thankful that this Holy Week in the Christian church can still be special, even as we stay safely away from our congregations. Last night, I “virtually” attended the Good Friday service at my parish. And on Sunday, it’ll be an Easter mass online. And for these, I’m truly grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 34

Today, I’m grateful for Holy Moments.

Matthew Kelly, in his book The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, coins this term to mean a moment when you collaborate with God to be the best version of yourself and do what God wants in that moment. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. It can be a simple act of kindness. And it’s entirely possible to choose to participate in Holy Moments over and over again. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?