Epiphany Day: Where the Map Begins

Image: An Ancient Light © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany Day: Matthew 2.1-12

“We observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.”
—Matthew 2.2

Friends, Happy New Year! I am grateful to be opening a new chapter of The Painted Prayerbook with you as this year begins.

With Epiphany approaching on January 6, I want to share a blessing with you that I first offered here in 2010 (in this post, which includes a reflection on the story of the journey of the Magi). Like so many blessings that I wrote before Gary died, this one rings differently for me now. As I work to make a new path so altered from the one Gary and I had dreamed together, it comes as a grace to remember the story of the wise ones who set out with only a star to guide them.

If you are feeling mapless, if you are needing light for an uncertain path, this is for you.

Where the Map Begins
A Blessing for Epiphany

This is not
any map you know.
Forget longitude.
Forget latitude.
Do not think
of distances
or of plotting
the most direct route.
Astrolabe, sextant, compass:
these will not help you here.

This is the map
that begins with a star.
This is the chart
that starts with fire,
with blazing,
with an ancient light
that has outlasted
generations, empires,
cultures, wars.

Look starward once,
then look away.
Close your eyes
and see how the map
begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates,
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.

You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral,
cannot perceive how
the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
and belly
and lungs.

But step out
and you will know
what the wise who traveled
this path before you
the treasure in this map
is buried
not at journey’s end
but at its beginning.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “An Ancient Light,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Advent special! During this season, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up. (Extended through Epiphany!)

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

7 Responses to “Epiphany Day: Where the Map Begins”

  1. Mary Dell Sigler Says:

    As always your words speak directly to me. My husband died three years ago and I always knew I would know when it was time to move closer to family. That time is now and as ready as I am to make the move, I am leaving a place where we ministered together for 16 years. There are many memories. I will work part time as a hospital chaplain and have a place to live but that path is so unknown as I venture out alone. Thank you for hearing my heart even when you do not know me.

  2. Ailsa Flynne Says:

    oh Jan,

    These days I feel like the journey I am meant to be travelling is crossing a bridge over a deep chasm … and I am sitting stubbornly in the cold and damp way down beneath the bridge saying “no I won’t”. Your words and the images they evoke always leave me with the sense that somewhere nearby there is a ladder if only I had eyes to see.

    Blessings for a grace-full year.


  3. Lynda Says:

    Thank you for these words of inspiration. I have read and reread this blessing several times since you sent it a couple of days ago and I keep coming back to it. There is so much on which to reflect. Blessings and prayers for you in 2017!

  4. Sue Mannshardt Says:

    …”the treasure is buried not at the end of the journey, but at its beginning…”Thank you, Jan, for this reminder…and if there can be a “journey within a journey,” then that’s where I think I am…Two years ago, a new journey began here in NC after 50+ years in CA — knowing this would be the beginning of something new with a knowing that this is where we’re meant to be…And now, just a year into discovering new meaning in this new life, there’s a sharp Detour which physical limitations have imposed; it is only the past few weeks that there is the possibility of coming to the end of this unexpected, undesired veering off the original new path…I guess that’s what journeys and maps are all about…I have not yet accepted all that gracefully the “grace of incompleteness” (Night Visions, p 98) that arises on our intended journeys. So once again, Jan, for this blessing, and for the divinely inspired reflections in that book which has been my primary Advent reflection material for nearly 15 years. I often wonder how you might write this book today in light of your own growing spiritual maturity and deep personal experiences these past few years. Again and again, I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration you have brought into my life all these years! Blessings as you contiue to find your own way with the “star of wonder!”

  5. Emily-Blair Stribling Says:

    I, like so many others, have been deeply touched and changed by your words…I am so grateful…I have shared your words in my sermons, given so many of your books to friends…and treasured them myself. My congregation has been enriched and I feel so blessed to have been able to introduce you to them. Thank you, thank you…you are mightily appreciated and your generosity has changed lives.

  6. Sherry Hardwick Thomas Says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post. My husband died 12 years ago and my journey became very different. I am sorry you are walking without Gary’s physical presence, but I have found my Bob’s presence, while changed, remains constant. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to follow the star with different and changing companions.

  7. Beatrice LaFramboise Says:

    Blessings of deep peace, thankfulness and hope as we move into unknown territory in 2017. Your words are always deep and inspiring. I continue to make small journal books to deepen my spirituality. Hope to see you again in the Northwest. Bea

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