Jan 6 – Feast of The Epiphany

Wednesday, January 6 – “Sometimes if you move carefully”

These days, in US Roman Catholic practice, the Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on the first Sunday after New Year’s Day.  The logic is that more people can make it to the second great feast of the 12 days of Christmas on a weekend.  It’s a little confusing, perhaps, because of the popularity of the Twelve Days of Christmas song (e.g., “five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and the partridge in a pear tree . . . ” etc.).  Count 12 from Dec 25 and you get January 6.  Today’s post offers a shout out to that older tradition.


  1. “a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi;
  2. sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/epiphany)

Universities aim at maintaining an Epiphany-friendly place where students and faculty and staff and administrators work to foster moments of insight nicely described in the second definition just above.  The work of learning, the challenges that faculty and staff encourage, should lead to moments of intuitive discovery that change someone’s thinking.  There may be no deeper joy than a moment when a student’s eyes light up and s/he “gets it!”  Such moments make the whole labor-intensive process of teaching and mentoring and learning worth the work.    Often it is those moments that students remember years after they have moved on in their lives.  From the Epiphany perspective, a university does its job when it is disruptive. That’s also what the story of the Magi says.  Three strangers turn up in the Jerusalem palace of Herod with a question from their strange land that so frightened the King that he erupted in violence which forced the little sacred family to flee in the night.

Real epiphany questions can do that; they challenge deep-down assumptions.  David Whyte, today’s poet, does not use the word “Epiphany” in this demanding and disturbing poem but to me he sounds like a very good teacher.   Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Enjoy mid-week of week one of 2016.

john sj

Today’s Post – “Sometimes”   by David Whyte

if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
where the only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right
to go away.

~David Whyte from Everything is Waiting for You


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