Anam Cara


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Having an Epiphany

“Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him” ~ Gospel Tradition According to Saint Matthew (2.2) NRSV.

Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased” ~Gospel Tradition According to Saint Matthew (3.17) NRSV.


Two verses. Two ways of looking at things. Two stories of Christ at different ages, but both signaling THE BEGINNING of some stage of his life on Earth. The first starts his life; the second initiates his ministry.  The first is how the West sees Epiphany. The second comes from the Eastern tradition of Epiphany. In both instances, there is an experience, which is life changing and transforming. From here on out, nothing will be the same. A new cycle, a new life has begun. For us, both point to the new creation, which is within us.

The Western side does have a baptism scene associated with Epiphany. Usually, this is called “Baptism of the Lord Sunday,” which is the Sunday following Epiphany. Many times, Epiphany observance is not on January 6, the day following the twelfth day of Christmas, which officially ends the Christmas Season; but celebrated on the Sunday closest to that day. This year that Sunday was a couple of days ago.  Therefore, in that reckoning, we look to the Magi (the infancy) in the past and baptism (the ministry) in the future. That would make this whole week like looking into the life of Christ as he was growing up in Galilee. Sort of “Coming of Age,” if you will.

Meanwhile, on the Eastern side of the world, they are baptizing. Even in the traditional spot on the Jordan River where Christ, our King, was by Saint John the Baptist. Today. Freezing cold! Today.

I wonder if this is where our “cold swim” actually comes from. Within the video presentation above you can see a video clip from Bulgaria back three years ago. 

Originally, there was a question over when Christmas was. December 25th was the Western date and January 6 was the Eastern date. Apparently, the Greeks and the Romans used a different method in trying to figure the Feast Day of the Annunciation (the conception of Christ in the Virgin womb—that is 25th of March).  Congratulations. The Western side won over, so the Christmas celebration is in December everywhere around the world. We call the twelve days in between those two dates “Christmastide.” The twelve days of Christmas.

There is also a third tradition to Epiphany. The changing of water into wine at the Marriage Feast in Cana. According to the Gospel Tradition of Saint John, this was the first of seven signs marking the Divinity of Christ.  A wedding. How appropriate! A wedding is the defining moment when two lives come together to form a union, and a third “life” begins. There is you, there is me. Together then, there is us.  A complete organism, all of our own. Ever wonder how the Church is many and yet one, all at the same time?

Then again, that is what it means by “having an epiphany,” is it not? To have a profound understanding or a deep knowledge of something… To see something for the very first time… Do you see something new today? What do you see when you look at the big picture?

I am Amhas Jack+ in Fayetteville, AR—wishing you and all your loved ones a glorious new beginning and a beautiful journey ahead! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On the Eighth Day Of Christmas


Giovanni Bellini, c. 1459, "Presentation at the Temple" Venice, Italy
“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Gospel Tradition According to St. Luke (2.21) NRSV

Ceud Mile FĂ ilte!

In today’s Gospel Reading, which happens to be Luke 2.16-21, the shepherds come to see the new baby king. It starts with Mary who places her child in a manger. Why a manger?  A manger was a feeding trough for the beasts of burden.

Immediately we are reminded of one of Christianity’s holy sacraments, that of the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek meaning, “thanksgiving.” Our Thanksgiving holiday is a feast, is it not? The sustenance for life is food. Someone had to give his or her life so that we may live. We are thankful for the gift. We are also grateful for all we have. We live in hope to living on through the next cycle, the next year, so we can celebrate the mystery of what it is we call life once again. Thus, we honor those who gave all they are.

When we celebrate Eucharist every Sunday, we honor the life given so that we may “live and move and have our being.” This time, in cycles. Life is circular. It goes on repeated cycles. Each new circuit brings a new day, new promise, new hope and new encounters. Despite the “newness” of each turn, everything ultimately remains the same, because these patterns are recognizable in form. Every new week, we eat the bread (flesh) and drink the wine (blood) of the One who sacrificed Himself so we can live. We do so in thanksgiving, and live the rest of the week accordingly. That is how we honor Him.

Speaking of new encounters, the shepherds had their new encounter with the Holy Family. Likewise, the Holy Family had a new encounter of the shepherds. Encounters are a reciprocal act. One sees and experiences an-other (another). That other also experiences you. An exchange made from one to the other. The shepherds tell their story of yet another encounter with heaven, through the angels. They leave in great joy, because they know that what the angels told them was spot on. Mother Mary, we see, is pondering these words. Treasuring them. She is completely devoted to what they reported. Just as we would expect a matriarch to be.

Interestingly, angel also comes from the Greek. It means “messenger.” This is a root word for another that we use in English, which is “evangel.” The “ev-” comes from a Greek prefix meaning “good.” Sometimes, the “ev-” is “eu-” which is how we get another word, like “euphoria.” “Evangel,” then, is “good message.” It is equivalent to our “Gospel.” This is why we sometimes refer to the Gospel writer as the “Evangelical.” With this in mind, we can see how each one of us could be an “angel” or, better yet, an “evangel” at any given point in time, provided we are spreading good cheer.

Now, before we return to the concept of cycles, it is important to realize the number eight. This number is one plus seven, or right after seven. Seven reminds us of a week. A week has seven days. The eighth day would be a week and a day, or a week from today. From this, we can see that a new cycle is beginning. Eight brings on the concept of a new cycle. Even so, today just happens to be a very important day as far as new cycles go. Today is “New Year’s Day.” We celebrate a new cycle, but a big one! This is not just a new day, a new week or a new month. This is a brand new year! HAPPY NEW YEAR! However, the Christmas story does not end here, any more than it did a week ago. Today is a week from Christmas Day, the Eighth Day of Christmas!

Torah, which is the instructions given by God to Moses to the Children of Israel, commands circumcision on the eighth day of the baby boy’s life (Leviticus 12.3). This is a big event! All the locals gather to celebrate the birth—a week later—welcoming the newcomer into the community. This tradition got started by the patriarch Abraham (Genesis 17.12). Today, Christians do this not by circumcision, but through baptism. Our baptism is our “circumcision of the heart.” It is a way that our community can see the newborn, accept him or her in to the community, and promise to protect, teach and care for the child to the best they can. Since there is no difference between Jew or Greek, male or female and freeman or slave; we baptize everyone, not just the males. All are welcomed to the table of the Lord!

Today is the Day that our Lord gets his new name. The name of Jesus. Yeshua in Aramaic. It means "Yah Saves!" It is the very idea that salvation belongs to God alone. Yeshua was a common name throughout the Aramaic speaking world during the time of Christ, but it is significant that the Angel who saw Mary previously said his name should be this particular name. A name above all names. 

Though the New Revised Standard Version and many other English translations circumcision of Christ came “after” the eight days were over, the Church celebrates this day, the eighth day, to coincide with the Torah and to match up with the “eighth” day of a new cycle. Chances are, the Holy Family waited until the Sabbath after the eighth day of the Child’s life to have that happen for the sake of convenience (John 7.23). This may be why the Church decides to baptize on or around the “eighth day.” Everybody is there regularly at that time.

The eight also signifies the “Eighth Day” that concluded “Sukkot,” the Feast of Booths or, Tabernacles, the last holiday of the religious year of Judaism.  That day also pointed to the Eighth Day, the Resurrection of the Lord. New day, new week, new month, New Year then new life, the new creation. All of this alluded to and condensed in six verses!

taken from
The popular Christmas song called "The Twelve Days of Christmas" says about this day:
On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking

For more about the Twelve Days of Christmas, click on the link. 
See you on Epiphany (on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015)!

This is Amhas Jack Douglas+ in Fayetteville, AR wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!

Beannachd Dia dhuit! 
May the Blessings of God be with you!