Thursday, January 06, 2011

As Epiphany Meets Ordinary Time

I just returned from a "Twelth Night " party. Why limit Christmas to a day or two when you can have twelve? What can I say? Catholics like to party.

As we are up to our eyebrows in all things related to the grand move, I'll post something from the archives that touches on the beautiful feast of Epiphany. In the words of Andy Williams, "We need a little Christmas."


In the Atrium we are getting ready to transition from the Christmas season back into Ordinary Time.

We just celebrated Epiphany. We pondered the long
 journey of the wise men; we talked about the fact that they fell prostrate in the presence of their savior; we read about how they returned to their country by a different way.

They returned to their country by a different way.

They had had an epiphany. We said the word. We defined it - "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something," according to Dictionary.com.

As I looked at the faces of these six sweet children who come week after week, I thought about epiphany. As we move out of Christmas and move into Ordinary Time, I thought it was time we revisited the essential meaning of our faith. I looked over to our sheepfold and thought we would go back to The Good Shepherd and The Found Sheep. I began to pray that as we ponder these foundational parables, the children would experience their own epiphany.

Sofia Cavalletti, the founder of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd,  took the educational methods of Maria Montessori and applied them to religious formation in children. Through decades of observation, she found that the very youngest children are drawn to the parables of Jesus, most especially to the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, knows them, calls them by name. They, in turn, stay close to Him. They won't follow a stranger, but the Good Shepherd alone because they know His voice. The Found Sheep is especially near to a child's heart, as it touches on that universal experience of being lost and then found.

I remember so well my first day of first grade. I stood by the parking lot of Saint Bede's School watching the big, yellow buses pull up. Out of my left eye, I could see my third grade sister Kathy in her brown striped coat. My right eye was trained on Keith, my fifth grade brother, in his blue jacket standing with the "big" kids. Throngs of girls in plaid jumpers and boys in navy pants milled about. I kept my eyes on my brother and sister. Left, right, Kathy, Keith.

Suddenly they were gone. I panicked, eyes darting through the crowd, searching for a brown striped coat or a blue jacket. Kids began pouring onto the buses. I hadn't a clue which one to board. The crowd thinned. No Kathy, no Keith!

I walked to a bus and got on.

The next few moments are a blur, but I eventually started bawling my little eyes out. I was lost! The next thing I remember is sitting on the lap of a long-suffering and very kind bus driver who drove the streets of Southfield, Michigan, asking, "Is this your street, honey?"

Somehow one of the kids (yes, the bus was completely full) told the bus driver that my mother was in the car behind the bus. How exactly this transpired, I will never know. I hopped off the bus and jumped in our red sedan so happy to be with my family once again.

As a mother now, I can well imagine my mother's reaction when her two oldest arrived home from school minus one brand new first grader. I have lost kids, and there are few more frightening experiences. John has proven particularly adept at disappearing as I found out late in my pregnancy with Ainsley.

I was up in Michigan enjoying a little R and R at my sister's house. It's a treat to have so many helpers late in pregnancy, but it's especially easy to lose a toddler because you think someone else has him.  John was outside playing with everyone. And then he wasn't.

We called. We searched. We panicked. We prayed. The search expanded to the next street. I incoherently begged the help of some construction workers. I told my sister to call 911.

And then my niece's voice yelling, "I found him!"

Oh, the relief! Oh, the agonizing "What if? What if?" Parenting is not for the weak-kneed. Toddlers are not for the distracted.

I have been the found sheep, and I have searched for the lost one. How well I can understand the joy of the Shepherd when the stray sheep is recovered. How I can appreciate the celebration that ensues. His desire is that not one be lost. What parent can fail to understand that? Which one of our children would we deem expendable?

In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we use the word "essential" a lot. We try to focus on the essential. The Christian faith is about essential relationships; it's about the deep, abiding love we have for God and He for us. We can know the whats of our faith, but it's so much more essential to know the who.

The Good Shepherd and The Found Sheep focus on the infinite value God sees in us. Our Good Shepherd is a source of sustenance, of security, of love. These can remain stories we've heard over and over in church, about as meaningful as a coloring sheet we remember from Sunday school. Or they can become an essential reality, an abiding love, an epiphany.

We will soon begin taking down Christmas decorations, boxing up the glitter that has brightened our world these past weeks. We will embrace Ordinary Time - the largest chunk of our church year - with its cycle of minor feasts and continuous growth in the Lord. But in my heart, in my home, and in my atrium, I hope to hold onto the spirit of Epiphany. I’ll return to Ordinary Time by a different way.

1 comment:

christinelaennec said...

What a lovely, thought-provoking post. I will come back and read that again. I really like your idea of Ordinary Time and also thanks for drawing my attention to the fact that the wise men came back by a different way.