Archive for the ‘Gospel of Matthew’ Category

Love Is the Most Ancient Law

October 23, 2014

Love Is the Most Ancient LawImage: Love Is the Most Ancient Law © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 25/Ordinary 30/Pentecost +20: Matthew 22.34-46

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
This is the greatest and first commandment.”
– Matthew 22.37-38

Love Is the Most Ancient Law
A Blessing

Open to it
and you will know
how love is
its own blessing
and most ancient
of laws.

Pursue it
entirely
with everything
in you—
your heart
(all)
your soul
(all)
your mind
(all).

Spend it
all—
this love
so generous
this love
that goes out
to each
it finds
this love
that gives itself
in lavish and
unimagined measure
everywhere and
to all—

yourself
not least.


For previous reflections on this gospel passage, visit Crossing the Country, Thinking of Love and Heart of the Matter.

Now open!

ILLUMINATED 2014 — Registration now open!
Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Advent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? I would love for you to join us for this all-new online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm of your days. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, ILLUMINATED 2014 will be a great way to journey toward Christmas from anywhere you are, in the way that fits you best. Begins November 30. For info and registration, visit ILLUMINATED 2014. Group & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Love Is the Most Ancient Law,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

About the Enfolding

October 8, 2014

Getting Garbed-detailImage: Getting Garbed (detail)  © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 23/Ordinary 28/Pentecost +18: Matthew 22.1-14

Table by table, I have made my way from Florida to Toronto. I am thankful beyond measure for the hospitality and solace I have received on this adventure. For those who don’t know, I am nearly two weeks into a big road trip; this is part of how I am listening my way into the life that’s unfolding in the wake of Gary’s dying.

This week’s gospel lection brings us to a curious parable that prompts questions about hospitality, heaven, and God’s own table. I have written previously about this passage and invite you to visit that post (the link is below). You can imagine that this reflection, written as Gary and I were looking toward our wedding, is bittersweet to me now. Yet the experience of our wedding celebration and our life together shapes how I look at this week’s passage about the wedding banquet—a passage that stirs questions about how I am seeking the enfolding of God on my path, even as I wrestle with what faith looks like in the midst of stunning grief.

By way of a blessing, I want to offer you a prayer that I wrote for my book Night Visions. This day and every day, may you know yourself enfolded by the love of the God who calls us to the feast.

Blessing

In your mercy
clothe me

in your protection
cloak me

in your care
enfold me

in your grace
array me.

With your justice
dress me

for your labor
garb me

by your love
envelop me

and fit me
for your work.

The blessing is from Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas.


For a previous reflection on the gospel reading, click the image or title below.

Getting Garbed
Getting Garbed

(And for a follow-up in which I reveal that my wedding anxiety dreams did not, in fact, prove prophetic, see the post Fitted for the Wedding Feast.)

Looking ahead…

Illuminated Retreat

ILLUMINATED 2014 coming soon! I am looking forward to offering an all-new online retreat for Advent. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, ILLUMINATED 2014 will be a great way to journey through Advent from anywhere you are, in the way that fits you best. The retreat will begin on November 30, and I would love for you to join us. Registration and more info coming soon. Group & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Getting Garbed,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

The Hardest Blessing

September 9, 2014

ForgivingImage: Forgiving © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 19/Ordinary 24/Pentecost +14: Matthew 18.21-35

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times,
but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
– Matthew 18.22

As I’ve been pondering this parable of Jesus—one of his most challenging, which is really saying something—I have found myself wondering how many of us have absorbed any of these beliefs about forgiveness:

Forgiveness means excusing or overlooking the harm that has been done to us and saying that everything is okay.

Forgiveness means allowing those who have hurt us to persist in their behavior.

Forgiving requires forgetting what has happened.

Forgiveness is something we can do at will, and always all at once.

If we have absorbed any of these distorted beliefs about forgiveness, it can come as both a shock and a relief to learn that such ideas would be foreign to Jesus. Clearly he expects us—requires us—to forgive. Yet in his teaching about forgiveness, nowhere does Jesus lay upon us the kinds of burdens we have often placed upon ourselves—burdens that can make one of the most difficult spiritual practices nearly impossible.

The heart of forgiveness is not to be found in excusing harm or allowing it to go unchecked. It is to be found, rather, in choosing to say that although our wounds will change us, we will not allow them to forever define us. Forgiveness does not ask us to forget the wrong done to us but instead to resist the ways it seeks to get its poisonous hooks in us. Forgiveness asks us to acknowledge and reckon with the damage so that we will not live forever in its grip.

Sometimes we are given the grace to forgive quickly. Sometimes the grace to forgive takes a long, long time to receive. And so forgiveness often requires practice. It takes choosing to work at it. We might have to chip away at it again and again and again. Seventy-seven times, at least, as Jesus says in this passage.

Forgiveness might well be the hardest blessing we will ever offer—or receive. As with any difficult practice, it’s important to ask not only for the strength we will need for it, but also the grace: the grace that will, as we practice again and again, begin to shimmer through our wounds, drawing us toward the healing and freedom we could hardly have imagined at the outset.

Is there some forgiveness you are being asked to practice? Are there any ideas about forgiveness that you might need to release—or take on—in order to enter this practice? How might it be to ask not only for the strength but also for the grace you need to forgive another—or yourself?

The Hardest Blessing

If we cannot
lay aside the wound
then let us say
it will not always
bind us.

Let us say
the damage
will not eternally
determine our path.

Let us say
the line of our life
will not forever follow
the tearing, the rending
we have borne.

Let us say
that forgiveness
can take some practice,
can take some patience,
can take a long
and struggling time.

Let us say
that to offer
the hardest blessing
we will need
the deepest grace,
that to forgive
the sharpest pain
we will need
the fiercest love,
that to release
the ancient ache
we will need
new strength
for every day.

Let us say
the wound
will not be
our final home;
that through it
runs a road,
a way we would not
have chosen
but on which
we will finally see
forgiveness,
so long practiced,
coming toward us
shining with the joy
so well deserved.


For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or link below.

Seventy Times Seven
Seventy Times Seven and Nine-Eleven

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Forgiving,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

Where Two, Where Three

September 1, 2014

Kinfolk
Image: Kinfolk © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 18/Ordinary 23/Pentecost +13: Matthew 18.15-20

Five years ago, on Labor Day weekend, the love of my life asked me to marry him. I was on Tybee Island, Georgia, with a group of my girlfriends from seminary who get together every year at this time. Gary had booked a concert in nearby Savannah that same weekend, and my friends and I drove over to see him. The concert hall was already packed when we arrived, but we managed to find a few seats near the back. Halfway through the concert, in front of a few hundred people and these dear friends, Gary jumped off the stage, ran the length of the hall to where we were sitting, and asked me to spend my life with him.

I was with these friends again this Labor Day weekend. In the midst of my sorrow, it was sweet beyond measure to be with this circle of women who hold this memory for me. I was thrilled to learn that one of my friends still had photos on her camera from the morning after the proposal, when they invited Gary over to the Tybee house for a celebratory brunch. (You can see one of those treasured photos below.)

In the wake of Gary’s dying, I cannot say I have become any more clear about what Jesus means when he says, in this week’s gospel reading, “If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” But I can tell you that when Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” I see this circle of friends who have enfolded me in times of deepest joy and keenest sorrow, bearing the presence of Christ in their midst.

Where Two, Where Three
A Blessing

Take my hand
and you will see
how this blessing
finds its way
to us
not as if
we each held
a piece of
its puzzle

but as if
it cannot resist
this space that opens
between us,
this place that is made
where we two meet,
where we three touch,
where we gather

with our eyes
open
with our hearts
open
with our hands
open
one to another

and on our lips
the name of Love,
all the blessing
we need ever
know.


EngagedEngaged


For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below.

For What Binds Us
For What Binds Us

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Kinfolk,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

Stubborn Blessing

August 11, 2014

MercyImage: Mercy © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 15/Ordinary 20/Pentecost +10: Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

A Canaanite woman from that region
came out and started shouting,

“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David;
my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
– Matthew 15:22

Clearly Jesus didn’t realize who he was messing with that day. Or did he? Perhaps Jesus knew precisely what he was doing and chose to use this encounter as a teaching moment for his hearers. Or perhaps he was simply in a stubborn mood and found himself facing someone who could match him easily, stubborn for stubborn. Either way, the story shows us that when it comes to saving what needs saving, being merely nice and pliant won’t win the day, or the life. Sometimes we need to dig in our heels and do some hollering.

Stubborn Blessing

Don’t tell me no.
I have seen you
feed the thousands,
seen miracles spill
from your hands
like water, like wine,
seen you with circles
and circles of crowds
pressed around you
and not one soul
turned away.

Don’t start with me.

I am saying
you can close the door
but I will keep knocking.
You can go silent
but I will keep shouting.
You can tighten the circle
but I will trace a bigger one
around you,
around the life of my child
who will tell you
no one surpasses a mother
for stubbornness.

I am saying
I know what you
can do with crumbs
and I am claiming mine,
every morsel and scrap
you have up your sleeve.
Unclench your hand,
your heart.
Let the scraps fall
like manna,
like mercy
for the life
of my child,
the life of
the world.

Don’t you tell me no.


For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below.

The Feast Beneath
The Feast Beneath

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Mercy,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

Walk Across That Water

August 5, 2014

Image: Walk Across That Water © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 14/Ordinary 19/Pentecost +9: Matthew 14.22-33

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.
– Matthew 14.31

Eight months have passed since Gary’s death: a moment, an aching eternity. I can tell you that I know what it means to be borne up when the waters overwhelm. I know the grace of hands that reach out to carry and console and give courage. I am learning—again, anew—what faith is, how this word that we sometimes toss around so casually holds depths within depths that will draw us beyond nearly everything we once believed.

This is some of what I know right now about faith:

That faith is not something I can summon by a sheer act of will.

That it lives and breathes in the community that encompasses us.

That I cannot force faith but can ask for it, can pray that it will make its way to me and bear me up over the next wave, and the next.

That it comes.

That I can lean into it.

That it will propel me not only toward the Christ who calls me, but also back toward the boat that holds my life, incomprehensible in both its pain and its grace.

What are you knowing about faith right now? Where is it bearing you?

Blessing that Bears the Wind, the Wave

That we will risk
the drenching
by which we
are drawn
toward the voice
that calls us,
the love
that catches us,
the faith
that carries us
beyond the wind,
the wave.

Blessing of Song: At the time of his death, Gary had nearly finished recording a wondrous new Song Chapel CD. One song, titled “Let Me Out of This Boat,” was inspired by this passage. I would love to share the song with you; you can listen to it by clicking the arrow on the audio player below. [For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the audio player, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook site, where you can view the player in this post.]

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage (which includes “Blessing on the Waves”), click the image or title below:

Night Passage
Blessing on the Waves

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Walk Across That Water,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory

February 23, 2014


Image: Transfiguration II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year A (March 2): Matthew 17.1-9

And he was transfigured before them,
and his face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became dazzling white.
—Matthew 17.1-2

I am painting again. For the first time since Gary went into the hospital—more than three months ago now—I have picked up my brushes and palette knives and paints. It has been a huge threshold to cross; I had to pack up my art supplies and leave town in order to do it.

Gary has been such a part of my creative process that it’s hard to imagine how to create on my own again. Our studios were on opposite sides of the house, and we regularly traveled (or hollered) back and forth between them as we worked. My husband was a remarkable thinking partner, possessed of a keen ability to notice what was happening in a painting or a piece of writing and to help me find my way when I became stuck. He saw everything—every image, every word—before I released it into the world. He sometimes saw things even before I did, pointing toward possibilities that were stirring but I hadn’t yet perceived.

Whether on our individual projects or the ones we collaborated on, our process was deeply intertwined. Having experienced that for years, the prospect of beginning to paint again in my too-empty house felt daunting, so I spent the past week at my parents’ home, where I commandeered the kitchen table and set up a makeshift studio. I wept when I sat down before the blank surface. And then I picked up my paintbrush and began. I hardly knew how to begin, but I began.

The week has provided a powerful reminder of a curious tension that the creative process (and life) asks us to hold: to claim and live into a vision, while at the same time remaining open to the surprises that occur—those moments when, after weeks or months or sometimes years, our faithfulness in showing up and tending the vision suddenly draws us into a dramatic shift, a new way of seeing and working. Even as we lean in the direction of our vision, the process asks us to relax our hold on our fixed ideas and habitual patterns, so that we can recognize what waits to emerge.

I didn’t intentionally time my return to painting to occur in such close proximity to Transfiguration Sunday. Yet I have found myself noticing the resonance, and paying attention to what stirs for me in this story of the three who followed Jesus up the mountain and had to follow him back down again. Life has required me, in a painfully vivid fashion, to release what I have counted on most. As I navigate the new terrain of my life, I am continually faced with choices—in my painting, in my writing, in the agonizing sorting of Gary’s things, in every aspect of every unfolding day—about what to hold onto, and what to let go. In the midst of all this, our story this week asks me, In all the changing, what abides? In the leaving and letting go, what gift still goes with us? How will we allow ourselves to be transformed by the transfigured Christ who accompanies us in every place?

The story of the Transfiguration is not simply about learning to leave the mountaintop, or about releasing what we have grown attached to. It’s not just about resisting our desire to turn moments of transcendence into monuments. The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing to walk where it leads us. The story urges us to trust that what we have seen, what we have known, will go with us. It assures us that the gifts received on the mountaintop will continue to illuminate us not only on level ground but even when we walk in the valley of the shadow.

When Glory
A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday

That when glory comes
we will open our eyes
to see it.

That when glory shows up
we will let ourselves
be overcome
not by fear
but by the love
it bears.

That when glory shines
we will bring it
back with us
all the way
all the way
all the way down.


BELOVED: An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Lent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? Join us for this online retreat that easily fits into the flow (or chaos!) of your days, inviting you into an elegantly simple space to reflect on your journey and find sustenance for your path. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to journey toward Easter, from anywhere you are. Click Online Lenten Retreat or the image below for details and registration. Individual, group, and congregational rates are available!

For previous reflections for Transfiguration Sunday, click the images or titles below:


Transfiguration Sunday: Dazzling



Transfiguration: Back to the Drawing Board



Transfiguration Sunday: Show and (Don’t) Tell

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Transfiguration II,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print—just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section when you click the link to the image on the JRI site.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

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.

 

Epiphany: This Brightness That You Bear

January 2, 2014


Image: This Brightness That You Bear © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

They set out; and there, ahead of them,
went the star that they had seen at its rising,
until it stopped over the place where the child was.
—Matthew 2.9

Many of you know that my amazing husband, Garrison Doles, died unexpectedly at the beginning of Advent, after experiencing complications during what we had anticipated would be a fairly routine surgery in mid-November. (I invite you to read this remembrance and blessing I wrote for Gary, if you haven’t seen it.) I am so grateful for all those who encircled us from near and far while Gary was in the hospital, and who are continuing to encompass our family during this time of stunning heartbreak. Every prayer, every word, every good thought has been such a tremendous gift in this dark season.

Gary and I are astoundingly fortunate in our families, who in these past weeks have held the light for us in ways that I can barely begin to thank them for. But this Christmas, I wanted to make the attempt, to at least try to offer up some words to honor the extraordinary lengths they have gone to in order to walk this journey with us. I wrote a blessing for them; today’s image is for them as well. I gave these to them on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day I also shared the blessing and artwork with those who joined me in the online Illuminated Advent Retreat, by way of thanks for how they traveled with me through a season that was so different than I had anticipated. For Epiphany, I want to share this with you. For the light you bear in this world: thank you. If you are in a dark season of your own, or know someone who is, may this come as a gift and a prayer that you will receive the light you need.

Blessings and gratitude to you as Epiphany draws near.

This Brightness That You Bear
A Blessing for My Family

This blessing
hardly knows what to say,
speechless as it is
not simply
from grief
but from the gratitude
that has come with it—

the thankfulness that sits
among the sorrow
and can barely begin
to tell you
what it means
not to be alone.

This blessing
knows the distances
you crossed
in person
in prayer
to enter into
days of waiting,
nights of long vigil.

It knows the paths
you traveled
to be here
in the dark.

Even in the shadows
this blessing
sees more than it can say
and has simply
come to show you
the light
that you have given

not to return it
to you
not to reflect it
back to you
but only to ask you
to open your eyes
and see
the grace of it,
the gift that shines
in this brightness
that you bear.


P.S.
I come bearing a few more Epiphany gifts for you…

CELEBRATING WOMEN’S CHRISTMAS
At my Sanctuary of Women site, you can find a brand-new retreat that I’ve designed for Women’s Christmas, which some folks celebrate on Epiphany. To learn more about Women’s Christmas and download the retreat (at no cost), click the image or link below.


Women’s Christmas: The Shimmering Hours


OTHER EPIPHANIES
For previous reflections for Epiphany, including “Blessing of the Magi,” click these images or the titles below.


Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi



Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel



Epiphany: Where the Map Begins



Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House


AND A FESTIVE DISCOUNT
In celebration of the season, the Advent discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit:


Jan Richardson Images

[To use the image “This Brightness That You Bear,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi

December 30, 2012


Image: By Another Road © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they left for their own country by another road.
—Matthew 2.12

Blessing of the Magi

There is no reversing
this road.
The path that bore you here
goes in one direction only,
every step drawing you
down a way
by which you will not
return.

You thought arrival
was everything,
that your entire journey
ended with kneeling
in the place
you had spent all
to find.

When you laid down
your gift,
release came with such ease,
your treasure tumbling
from your hands
in awe and
benediction.

Now the knowledge
of your leaving
comes like a stone laid
over your heart,
the familiar path closed
and not even the solace
of a star
to guide your way.

You will set out in fear
you will set out in dream

but you will set out

by that other road
that lies in shadow
and in dark.

We cannot show you
the route that will
take you home;
that way is yours
and will be found
in the walking.

But we tell you
you will wonder
at how the light you thought
you had left behind
goes with you,
spilling from
your empty hands,
shimmering beneath
your homeward feet,
illuminating the road
with every step
you take.

P.S. I have a few more Epiphany treats for you!

First: At my Sanctuary of Women site, you can find a brand-new retreat that I’ve designed for Women’s Christmas, which some folks celebrate on Epiphany. To learn more about Women’s Christmas and download the retreat (at no cost), click the image or link below.

Women’s Christmas: The Map You Make Yourself

Then: For previous reflections for Epiphany, including “Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel,” click this image or title:

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

And for the final treat: The special Advent discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit:

Jan Richardson Images

[To use the image “By Another Road,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

December 31, 2011


Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

Merry Christmas to you, still! Because Advent is always such a wonderfully intense time for me, with offering The Advent Door and being engaged in other holiday happenings, I usually arrive at Christmas Day quite spent and ready for a long winter’s nap. I am grateful that instead of being over on December 25, when I’m finally able to take a breath, Christmas is a season—a short one, to be sure, with only twelve days, but a season nonetheless, with its own rhythm and invitations.

This year, the days of Christmas have been for me a time of resting, connecting with family and friends, long walks in the beautiful Florida sunshine, and doing some dreaming about the year ahead. Though the coming months are sure to be marked by surprises, I want to enter the year with some sense of what I’d like for the path to look like, and where I’m feeling drawn to go.

The Christmas season ends with Epiphany, a feast day in which the early church celebrated Jesus’ brilliant manifestation (epiphaneia in Greek, also translated as “appearing”) not only to the Magi but also to the world through his birth, baptism, and first recorded miracle at the wedding at Cana. Eastern Christianity maintains this multifaceted celebration of Epiphany, while we in the West focus primarily on remembering and celebrating the arrival of the Magi, those mysterious and devoted Wise Men who traveled far to welcome the Christ and offer their gifts.

As we travel toward Epiphany and savor the final days of Christmas, this is a good time to ponder where we are in our journey. As we cross into the coming year, where do you find yourself on the path? Have you been traveling more by intention or by reacting to what’s come your way? What direction do you feel drawn to go in during the coming weeks and months? Is there anything you need to let go of—or to find—in order to take the next step? In the coming months, what gift do you most need to offer, that only you can give?

Blessings and traveling mercies to you as we approach Epiphany and the year to come. I look forward to walking with you.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

P.S. For previous reflections on Epiphany here at The Painted Prayerbook, click the images or titles below. Also, the special holiday discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship and education) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit Jan Richardson Images.

Epiphany: Where the Map Begins

Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House

Feast of the Epiphany: A Calendar of Kings

The Feast of the Epiphany: Magi and Mystery

[To use the “Epiphany” image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]