Last week I celebrated Epiphany on January 6. On the 7th, I took Christmas down. But my Wise Men and their camels and gifts made it to my manger scene in good time. They arrived on the 4th! Must have been great travelling this year.
Epiphany — our young priest tried to explain it Sunday. That’s the day we officially celebrated the feast at church. He [Baby Priest] took the “Tell all the World” approach to Epiphany. Me? I’m more of the “Aha!” as the definition of epiphany type person. But, I can see clearly that the story of the Wise Men clearly tells us that God’s love not only extends to all, but you just can’t control who will pay attention and recognise it. These Wise Men came across the desert because they saw the light and followed it. They weren’t God Chosen Jews — not when they started the journey and not when they returned home. They didn’t take on the trappings of the Jewish religion as far as I can tell.
Our current pastor is a very young priest. He wears a cassock. I do feel for him being thrown into this job. I tell myself he’s young. My epiphany when listening to him this week was that he longs for a magical perfect past that never existed. In many ways, I think that’s what so many “traditionalists” long for. They wish for a time of innocence when there were rules, and they felt quite safe. They wish to go back to a time before their personal age of reason (not before The Age of Reason).
When they speak of this magic past, everything is peaceful and good. Like so many in my generation, that would mean perhaps the 1950s. Ozzy and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, Andy Griffith. Those TV shows represent an idealized past sold to use by Mad Men and their advertising.
But let’s look closer. Yes, for Catholics this was pre-Vatican II. Everybody (ok, maybe every Catholic) was told what to think, what movies and books were acceptable and the clergy was on a pedestal. It was quite safe and predictable. Except it wasn’t. It was the McCarthy era. Any sex abuse by clergy (Catholic or Protestant) was covered up and/or dismissed. There was the growing threat of nuclear war. It was illegal to be homosexual – or to act on those inclinations. There was redlining that kept a part of our population down and out. And what about overt discrimination based on color or sex or religion that kept children from getting equal education. It was perfect in the US and many other countries if you happened to be white and male (oh, and cisgendered).
Even my father, who was forward thinking enough to work out how my mother would have her own credit history, etc, tried to steer me toward being a legal secretary (maybe today a paralegal) instead of an attorney. Not that I was interested in either. But, I’m sure he would have thought it more appropriate for me to think nursing instead of being a doctor. (Again, not my path. I thought large animal Veterinarian was a good idea).
I never shared a classroom with a black student until I was in high school. I remember white and colored water fountains and separate entrances to movie theaters.
This mythical past just wasn’t.
Or go back further into this magic, traditional past with Latin masses and the altar turned so that the priest’s back was to the congregation, and the word from Rome was not questioned (out loud). If it was so perfect, why was there a Vatican II in the first place?
My guess is that the Church herself reached an “age of reason” where she had to look at herself and take responsibility. That She had to be open to the Epiphany and see/accept that there are many ways to God, and many ways to experience God, and many ways to share God’s love.
And that it the present.