Posts tagged ‘epiphany’

January 5, 2018

confirm our song and lead our feast

Excerpts from Royal Hours on the Eve of the Theophany (Epiphany).

[Served on Friday, January 5, 2018. © 2006 The Orthodox Church in America.]

The river Jordan was turned back by the mantle of Elisha,
after Elijah had been taken up to heaven.
The waters were parted in two,
and the stream became a dry path.
This was truly a type of baptism,
by which we pass over the stream of life.
Christ has shone forth in the Jordan to sanctify the waters.

To the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Lord,”
You came, O Lord, taking the form of a servant.
You asked to be baptized though You have no knowledge of sin.
The waters saw You and were afraid.
The Forerunner trembled and cried aloud:
“How will the Lamp illumine the Light?
How will a servant lay his hand on the Master?
You take away the sin of the world, O Savior.
Sanctify both me and the waters!”

Today our God, the Trinity,
revealed Himself to us as one and undivided:
for the Father with a loud voice bore witness to His Son;
the Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove;
the Son bowed his spotless head before the Forerunner John
and was baptized in his love for us,
delivering us from bondage.

The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid. (Ps. 76:17/77:16)

The Father bore witness to You,
and the Divine Spirit in the form of a dove descended on You,
as You came in flesh to the Jordan, O Lord.
You desired to be baptized in human form,
that in Your compassion You might enlighten us who have gone astray, and deliver us from all the snares and wiles of the Dragon.
Make your home in our souls, O loving God.

What wonder, to look down in the river
and see the Maker of heaven and earth standing naked.
Like a servant at the hands of a servant
he accepts to be baptized for our salvation.
The choirs of angels are astounded,
overwhelmed with fear and joy.
With them we worship You; save us, O Lord!

Therefore I remember You, from the land of Jordan and of Hermon.

When he saw the Lord of glory draw near,
the Forerunner cried aloud:
“Behold, the One who redeems the world from corruption!
Behold, the One who delivers us from affliction!
Behold, the One who grants us remission of sins!
In his mercy He has come forth on the earth from a pure virgin.
He makes us children of God instead of servants;
through the waters of His baptism divine,
He gives light to us in place of darkness.
Let us all glorify Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit!

The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid. (Ps. 76:17/77:16)

[Then the canonarch, standing in the center of the church, chants this verse:]

With your hand, O Baptist,
you touched the pure head of the Master.
With your hand and your finger you showed Him to us.
Stretch out this hand toward Him on our behalf,
since you have great boldness;
for He witnessed to you as greater than all the prophets!
And again, with your eyes, O Baptist,
you saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove.
Lift your eyes to Him and make Him gracious toward us!
And come and stand with us!
Come and stand with us!
Come and stand with us!
Confirm our song and lead our feast!

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Ps. 26/27:1)

Today the Lord enters the Jordan and cries out to John:
“Do not be afraid to baptize me, for I come to save Adam, the first-formed man!”

Some language from the same service in the Antiochian tradition:

O Life-giving Lord, when Thou didst come to the Jordan in the flesh, in the likeness of man, willing to be baptized to lighten us who have erred, delivering us from all the wiles of the dragon and his gins, since Thou art compassionate, the Father testified of Thee, and the divine Spirit did come to Thee in the likeness of a dove. Dwell Thou, therefore, in our souls, O Lover of mankind.

Psalm 73
But God is our king before the ages; He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst establish the sea by Thy might; Thou didst break the heads of the dragons in the water. Thou didst crush the head of the dragon; Thou gavest him as food to the Ethiopian peoples. Thou hast cloven fountains and torrents; Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham. Thine is the day and Thine is the night; Thou hast perfected the light and the sun. Thou hast made all the borders of the earth; summer and spring hast Thou fashioned. Be mindful of this Thy creation.

Psalm 90
For Thou, O Lord, art my hope. Thou madest the Most High thy refuge; no evils shall come nigh thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh unto thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon. For he hath set his hope on Me, and I will deliver him; I will shelter him because he hath known My Name.

Psalm 28
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory hath thundered, the Lord is upon the many waters. The voice of the Lord in might, the voice of the Lord in majesty. The voice of the Lord Who breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord will break the cedars of Lebanon. And He will break them small like the calf of Lebanon, and His beloved is like a son of the unicorns. The voice of the Lord Who divideth the flame of fire, the voice of the Lord Who shaketh the wilderness; yea, the Lord will shake the wilderness of Kaddis. The voice of the Lord gathereth the harts, and shall reveal the thickets of oak, and in His temple every man uttereth glory. The Lord dwelleth in the flood; yea, the Lord shall sit as king forever.

[NOTE: The following is done slowly from the center of the church.]

Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…
Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…
Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…

… the same with which thou didst point Him to us by the pointing of the finger, raise thou it to Him for our sakes, O Forerunner. Thou hast attained great favor, since it was testified of thee by Him that thou art the greatest of all the Prophets. And thine eyes also, which did behold the All-Holy Spirit descending in the likeness of a dove, raise to Him, O Baptizer, granting mercy for us.

Come, thou, and stand with us…
Come, thou, and stand with us…
Come, thou, and stand with us…
… concluding our praise and beginning the celebration of the Feast.

[Portions of the Archdiocesan Service Texts include texts from The Menaion, The Great Horologion, The Pentecostarion, and The Psalter of the Seventy, which are Copyright © Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, beyond printing out a single copy for personal non-commercial use, without the prior written authorization of Holy Transfiguration Monastery.]

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January 15, 2013

we cram our closet with sunrise

Poem by Joanie Mackowski. From the Poetry Magazine.

Epiphany

A momentary rupture to the vision:
the wavering limbs of a birch fashion

the fluttering hem of the deity’s garment,
the cooling cup of coffee the ocean the deity

waltzes across. This is enough—but sometimes
the deity’s heady ta-da coaxes the cherries

in our mental slot machine to line up, and
our brains summon flickering silver like

salmon spawning a river; the jury decides
in our favor, and we’re free to see, for now.

A flaw swells from the facets of a day, increasing
the day’s value; a freakish postage stamp mails

our envelope outside time; hairy, claw-like
magnolia buds bloom from bare branches;

and the deity pops up again like a girl from
a giant cake. O deity: you transfixing transgressor,

translating back and forth on the border
without a passport. Fleeing revolutions

of same-old simultaneous boredom and
boredom, we hoard epiphanies under the bed,

stuff them in jars and bury them in the backyard;
we cram our closet with sunrise; prop up our feet

and drink gallons of wow!; we visit the doctor
because all this is raising the blood’s levels of

c6H3(OH)2CHOHCH2NHCH3, the heart caught
in the deity’s hem and haw, the oh unfurling

from our chest like a bee from our cup of coffee,
an autochthonous greeting: there. Who saw it?

July 27, 2011

airy abeles set on a flare

The magi would have understood this imperative to look at the stars. Abeles (or white poplars) are a Eurasian salicaceous tree (Populus alba) having palmately (“like a palm with fingers extended”) lobed leaves covered on the underside with dense silvery-white hairs. Flares are “a fire or blaze of light used especially to signal, illuminate, or attract attention.” These silvery sentinels stand signaling, calling us to notice and take heed.

The Starlight Night

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
  O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
  The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
  Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
  Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then! — What? — Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
  Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
  Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) wrote with ecstatic vision and deep hope. This is a poem that I wish to wander through more slowly and more often. Angels and stars frequently overlap in scripture (even as the phrase “heavenly hosts” can mean either the stars or the armies of God, see the passage below). In the stories of Tolkien and Lewis, stars give their daughters in marriage to kings, sing order and beauty into the world and lend their light to the greatest jewels of the gods and elves.

The “heavenly hosts” made famous by English translations of the Bible have two distinct meanings: one is a reference to the stars; the other to God’s celestial armies, presumably of angels. Sometimes the two references seem to merge. In fact, the two meanings of the Hebrew phrase for “host of heaven” … reflect a probable association between angels and stars and planets in the Hebrew imagination. The heavenly hosts of stars, moreover, sometimes have associations of idolatry, since surrounding pagan nations were given to astrology and worship of the heavenly bodies. (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery by Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit and Tremper Longman, page 372.)

Journey of the Magi by Sassetta, c. 1435 (tempera and gold on wood; 8 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.; Metropolitan Museum of Art):

The Starry Night by Van Gogh, June 1889 (oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in.; Museum of Modern Art, New York; completed near the mental asylum of Saint-Remy 13 months before Van Gogh’s death):

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