Today, the Fifth of January is also known as “Twelfth Night,” the vigil of the Epiphany. Many people may recall that Shakespeare wrote a play of the same name but the plot has nothing to do with what we celebrate. In many parts of the world, the eve of Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season. People of some cultures have parties and share a “king’s cake,” in which coins or a small babydoll are hidden during baking. The person who finds the coin or baby in his or her portion may win a small prize or be selected to bake the cake and have the party next year.
At the end of the Christmas season, I am often a little melancholy. I know there are many people who can’t wait to put their tree and decorations away, but I’m not one of them. Sentimentality about Christmas seems to be generally waning these days and I always find myself wondering why. Could it be that we start too early or don’t properly penetrate the mystery of the Incarnation?
Tonight I return to the T.S. Eliot poem that began these twelve day meditations. I will take time to savor the words and resolve again to live each day intentionally so that when December returns, I will be ready to follow the star and return with even more passion to Bethlehem.
Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.