Faith at Work LXXIX

February 2011

As I write this article, we are celebrating in Church the meeting of the wise men and the newborn Jesus; it is known as the Epiphany, the appearance of the Christ-child to the magi. It is the meeting of Jew and non-Jew, the meeting of East and West, the meeting of human and divine. The church season of Epiphany finishes at the beginning of February with the feast of Candlemas or the Jewish rite of purification, when children are designated as holy according to Jewish law in the Temple. At his presentation, the eight-day old Jesus is recognised by the old, devout Simeon who has been waiting for this day when he will meet the Messiah, the “light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” as he puts it [Luke 2:32]. The old meets the new; there is a new beginning and Simeon can end his life in peace.

Life is a journey, and both Simeon and the wise men highlight for us the need to recognise where we are going and how to get there. Over the last few months I have been exploring the importance of number; we had reached nine, which is the number of the Beatitudes taught by Jesus to his disciples at the start of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-11]. The first eight are more general and Jesus describes various groups as blessed, but the ninth is much more specific. He addresses his disciples directly and says: “Blessed are you when …” – it is the culmination of their journey through the other beatitudes when they arrive at the most blessed state, the one where Simeon is overjoyed at meeting the baby Jesus and the wise men are vindicated in their search.

So I thought we would spend the next nine months on a journey through the Beatitudes. People write whole books on these few verses and I’ve left little space to explore the first one: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Perhaps I can simply say that we need to empty ourselves (mind and spirit) if we are to be filled with inspiration. We need to “be still and know that I am God” as the psalmist says [Ps.46:10]. It is often said that the best ideas come in a flash, sudden realisation of the “obvious”: just like Archimedes whose bath level rose when he stepped into it (why hadn’t he thought of that before?); just like Simeon who recognised in Jesus the way to salvation; just like the wise men, founded in their own faith and tradition, but being open-minded and aware of other possibilities.

So where are we going? What will sustain us on the journey? How will we find the way? Lynda Wright, of the Iona Community, asks the following questions for us to ponder as we journey with the wise men:

  1. What gifts can we offer, of our self, of our time and of our material possessions?
  2. Do we cultivate silence in our lives for receiving moments of knowing and recognition?
  3. How else can we experience God’s revelation of his will for us personally?

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
and subsequent experience during ministry in the parish of Codsall and the BCUIM.
This page was last updated on 2011-02-07

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