Today January 8 the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The traditional date in the Church is January 6, but like so many other Feast Days it has been moved to Sunday. It’s a beautiful text in scripture; the Magi or Wise Men, are called by King Herod to find the child that has been prophesied as a new king, a ruler of the nations. They follow a star, using their scientific knowledge to navigate their course to Jesus in Bethlehem. They bring the gifts of homage; gold, frankincense and myrrh.
We all know the story, the wise noble men, seeking someone wiser than themselves. We have heard various reflections on the meanings of the gifts they bring. We have been asked to consider the symbolism of offering our own gifts to God as we come to learn what they are and grow in our capacity and confidence to offer them in the world.
As I was thinking about what I might write for today’s blog, a multitude of things came to mind. I wondered about the trust that the wise men had to have, in themselves, to follow their knowledge and insights in seeking this unknown place and child king they were searching for. I wondered whether I would have turned around and headed back home when the star didn’t shine as bright or as clear, when the journey was difficult.
I also thought about each day we wake up and try to offer our best in the world. As I sat at my desk I glanced at a journal I didn’t mention last week. I frankly forgot about it when I was writing and sharing some of the journals I use or how I use them. It’s a 5 year Memory Book by Natural Life. Each day there is a space to jot down activities or thoughts for the day. Now that I have started my second year, it’s interesting to reflect on that date, in 2022, and what happened. The title, or thought, on the cover is “Each Day is a Gift”.
On Monday, I listened to a YouTube video by Monique Jacobs, a spiritual director/vlogger I subscribe to. In her video Monique talks about the value of an annual Examen, a practice of looking at our day, or year in Monique’s example, in review. Monique offers the idea of looking at each month of the past year, identifying a peek experience, and remembering myself in each of those experiences, what happened and how I responded. Then she asked that I look at myself as God sees me, to see myself with the loving gaze of God.
As I saw the title of my memory book and reflected on Monique’s video in light of the feast of Epiphany, I wondered, what it would be like if I looked at each day in this year of 2023 as a gift that I then turn and offer back to God?
There is a common prayer practice called the Morning Offering. It’s a prayer said at the beginning of each day in which I offer my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of the day to God. It’s a lovely prayer. I try to say it each day and have even tweaked it a bit to include prayers for peace between Ukraine and Russia, and to include the intentions of my family and friends. I also like to do an evening Examen, to look for the graces of the day and to be thankful. It’s also a chance to view the day for those moments of opportunity to improve and grow closer to God. But what would it feel like, at the end of each day, as I review or conduct an Examen of the day, to offer it back to God as a gift?
As I kneel before Jesus, as King and Lord of my life, I can’t imagine feeling content with the gifts I offer, with the tattered gifts of impatience, anger, self-centeredness or self-indulgence. I can’t imagine…unless I see the loving gaze of God looking upon me, as Monique suggested in her video. Nothing that I can do or present is worthy, when viewed in my eyes. But God’s gaze of unconditional love and compassion is different than my gaze.
All of these stories in scripture remain stories or narratives of a time 2000+ years ago, unless we hear them with the desire that God has for us to be in relationship. The Saints of the Church knew this, the desire to offer what they were to God was stronger than the urge to withdraw because their gifts felt inadequate. Catherine of Siena, 14th century Dominican mystic and woman Doctor of the Church, said in her Dialogue (60) “Love transforms one into what one loves.“
May our prayer and desire each day, as we offer the gift of the day back to God, be that we are transformed by that gaze of Love.
Image from a visit to Our Lady of Angels Chapel