Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2017
I did something this week that I have never done before. I woke up from a very disturbing dream, ran right past the coffee pot, skipped morning prayer, sat down at the computer, and began to write it down while it was still fresh. I will spare you all the gory details and simply tell you that I was asked at the last minute to “substitute” for the pastor of a great cathedral in a large city far from home. In my dream, I was extremely nervous to the point that I was tempted to decline. But it seemed there was no choice; I had to go. So, I began to work feverishly on the homily that I would deliver during the liturgy. Although I wasn’t totally satisfied, as I rushed…of all things…catch a bus to travel the long distance to this great cathedral, I had an idea of how to “break open God’s Word” for the faithful who would be gathered for this very solemn event.
The entire trip, I continued to work on the homily, struggling to concentrate. When I got off the bus and walked into the enormous, poorly lit, shadowy stone church, I encountered total chaos. There were hundreds of choir members, and, rather than rehearsing, they were arguing about the music choices. Very scary! In my dream, there was an entire symphony orchestra, clearly not prepared to play for Sacred Liturgy. I tried to motivate them but wasn’t successful. Florists were scurrying around with potted plants, trying to prepare a beautiful environment, but it was still a big, dark, stone building.
Overwhelmed by the total lack of organization, the nerves I felt early on in the nightmare escalated into sheer panic. I struggled to wake up. But I just kept dreaming. The most agonizing part of the bad dream was that there was so much confusion and chaos, I couldn’t concentrate on the message I hoped to deliver.
Then I heard the opening hymn. With a sense of urgency, I searched for a private place to change into my clerical clothes and vestments. I opened my suitcase, and a shock went through my entire body…it was empty! Somehow, I had neglected to pack any of the trappings of priesthood. Now, you would think this would be the moment that I woke up SCREAMING. I didn’t. The dream held on to me. Alone, I walked out into the brightly lit sanctuary, wearing flip-flops, cut offs, and an old golf shirt. I looked like the gardener, not the presider. There was a communal gasp!
The gasp turned to angry grumbling and cat calls. Many of the well dressed, elegant people simply got up and left. I still could not break free from the dream. In my dream, I actually began the Mass. Things became quiet, and someplace in my subconscious, the terror of the nightmare began to recede and I started to calm down. I was no longer willing myself to wake up. My dream carried me to the ambo, where I began to proclaim a passage from Matthew’s Gospel: I give praise to You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, You have revealed them to the child-like.
With that, I woke up!
I didn’t wake screaming. I woke up smiling and with a sense of peace and joy…even excitement. I think maybe I dreamed my own special “epiphany.” I don’t want to play Sigmund Freud and interpret my bad dream/good dream, but I suspect that throughout Advent and Christmas, I have been so focused in prayer, reflection, and homily preparation on the mystery of the Incarnation, that the Sacred Mystery filled my mind and was absorbed into my dream. The result, as the Season comes to its conclusion, was my own special “manifestation” of what God has done for us through the birth of Jesus Christ.
God called upon Jesus to bring the Eternal Word into the world; a message of Peace, Joy and Love! Jesus could not decline. But, upon entering time, He found the world to be a place of unimaginable confusion and chaos, so much so that The Lord’s mission was constantly being challenged, even threatened. Jesus had to struggle to stay focused on what He was about and the message He was to deliver. Making matters even more complicated, the Messiah arrived, looking nothing like what was expected.
The “wise and learned” that surrounded the evil Herod were anticipating the arrival of an earthly emperor. Misguided by the image of Caesar, they were looking for a military leader who claimed to be divine, who, ruling with absolute power, would make Israel great again.
The Magi, also “wise and learned,” came at the mystery of the Incarnation from a different direction. Unaffected by the attempted influence of Herod or the worldly expectations of what the Messiah would look like, they followed the star with open minds and open hearts. Their “child-like innocence” protected them as they embarked on their search. Their wisdom and goodness enabled them to recognize The Christ child, lying in the straw-lined manger, for Who He was…The Son Who is given to us…Wonder –Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace…Whose dominion is vast and forever peaceful. Prepared with appropriate gifts, they laid the gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the side and offered something far more appropriate. They humbled themselves before The King of Kings!
And they felt radiant at what they saw…their hearts throbbing and overflowing, filled with peace, joy, love, and excitement. They returned home “a different way.” They returned home with a new dream! They left their encounter with the Christ-child filled with a dream of how all people from all nations can live together in peace, joy, and love, confident that their Christ-dreams can be reality to those who strive to live with child-like hearts.
Pleasant dreams to you! May each of you experience a personal epiphany!