Reflection for the Epiphany - 6th January 2021

During our journey through Christmastide we’ve been with the intimacy of the coming of God incarnate in the hidden places of our hearts. Then from God’s welcome to us, reaching out in welcome to others. Now at the Epiphany I see our journey taking on a cosmic dimension. From the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 2:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."

Those mysterious magi, astrologers who studied the heavens to gain understanding of things on earth, come seeking the baby born to be King of the Jews. For millennia, in many ancient cultures, the movements of heavenly bodies have been plotted and studied – not just by the magi of the middle east but the natives of this land who built Stonehenge, and many others. It gave power to those who could predict eclipses and events on earth. It brought the magi to the city of Jerusalem, expecting to find the new-born king in the royal palace. But in the way that God subverts our expectations, they find the baby in a humble home in a second-rate town:

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.

Their astrological science saw the interconnectedness of all things. The energies of heavenly bodies were seen as interwoven with our lives on earth, the fate of each one of us determined by our unique relationship with the cosmos at the time of our birth. With the dawn of Newtonian science such ideas faded away but it’s interesting that modern science is having to accept that the cosmos is perhaps more like that seen by the astrologers than by Newton! There is an entanglement between all things, energies weaving together to give rise to matter and life, strange effects at a distance, a quantum unpredictability, as Frankie was explaining in her retreat. There is a mysterious interconnectedness at the heart of reality. Scientists today are having to surrender to that element of mystery. The cosmos is not as tractable to our rational minds as we might wish.

As women committed to a life of prayer this should be no surprise. We know that in some mysterious way the manner of our life here has an impact way beyond the walls of the Abbey. In deep, attentive silence we begin to touch into a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, the webs of energy in which we are enmeshed. When we pray we make ourselves conduits for the love of God, places where his love can enter the world and flow out in healing. Astrologers and scientists attend deeply to the world they observe, and we too need that deep attentiveness – an attentiveness to God’s presence centred in each of our hearts yet spreading out into the whole cosmos. Through our times of prayer, both corporate and personal, we tune ourselves in to attend to God, as scientists tune their instruments to the wavelengths they are studying.

I pray that we never take God for granted or think we understand his ways – we are in the presence of mystery, the mysterious love that created the universe and yet was born as a baby in Bethlehem. It is our particular calling to hold ourselves, as best we can, in tune with that mysterious presence and to create a space in which others too can tune in to it. Like the magi, let us follow God’s leading to the joyful encounter with the Christ child, and falling down in worship offer our lives for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. Another step along the way of peace.

Mother Anne - 6th January 2021