La Befana: The Epiphany of the Lord

la befana

As children, my father would tell the story of Le Befana on 6 January. La Befana is one of Italy’s oldest and most celebrated legends. Each year on January 6 the children of Italy awaken in hopes that La Befana has made a visit to their house. This is a significant day to Italians because it marks the end of the Christmas season and the day that the three Wise Men arrived at the manger of the Christ child. Over the years the Epiphany has been a more celebrated holiday for the children of Italy than even Christmas.
As legend has it the three Wise Men were in search of the Christ child when they decided to stop at a small house to ask for directions. Upon knocking, an old woman holding a broom opened the door slightly to see who was there. Standing at her doorstep were three colorfully dressed men who were in need of directions to find the Christ child. The old woman was unaware of who these three men were looking for and could not point them in the right direction. Prior to the three men leaving they kindly asked the old woman to join them on their journey. She declined because she had much housework to do. After they left she felt as though she had made a mistake and decided to go and catch up with the kind men. After many hours of searching she could not find them. Thinking of the opportunity she had missed the old woman stopped every child to give them a small treat in hopes that one was the Christ child.
The feast of Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Christ to the pagan nations. And it points to Israel’s place as the source of God’s revelation. The Magi came to seek the newly born King, the one who would be a light to the nations. Their encounter acknowledged Israel as God’s chosen people. They would be the source of God’s blessing, a living fountain of God’s revelation for all people. In the feast of the Epiphany, we rejoice in the worship of the first seekers. And we are reminded to honor God’s people who gave us the great gift of Jesus, our Lord. [Living Liturgy 2015]
When have you searched for the Lord? When has that search encountered road blocks or deception or wrong turns? How has God kept you on track?
As we look back on the story of the Epiphany, let us remember who called, guided, and revealed himself to the Magi: God.
The story was God-driven from the first verse. Let us not forget God himself calls us from the surface experience of daily living to seek something higher, something better. He is the one who turns us from those who expect experience into those who receive grace, pure gift, at every turn. In God, we find someone to give our hearts, our minds, and our lives to. We find the goal of our quest.

Adapted from Renew International Prayer Time Year B
How has God called you this week? How has God graced you this week? How can you pass your call and your grace along to others?
Here’s a musical reflection on Epiphany from a well-known source:

Looking For Jesus

Remember the character Waldo, who dressed in a red and white striped shirt, wore a bobble hat and glasses, and could be found hiding in a crowd? Wally, as he was known originally, is the creation of British illustrator Martin Handford, who first drew him in 1986, at the request of his art director at Walker Books. The challenge was to create a character that would stand out and serve as a focal point in Handford’s illustrations of crowds. The result was a lovable time traveler hidden in plain sight and manifested in four-color glory amongst ordinary folks engaged in a variety of activities. Wally is the star of books, video games, a comic strip, and a television series. Wally’s exploits have been reproduced in 29 international versions with localized names (Waldo in North America).

The celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord invites us to look for manifestations of Jesus in the world, in our communities, and in our lives. Jesus has been hidden in plain sight since birth; more than 2000 years later he is still visible yet often obscured by the glaring light and noise of the world’s powers and principalities. His inauspicious birth was not even a blip on the mental radars of the local religious and political leaders of his day until some foreigners showed up bearing gifts for an infant king identified by a star. Jesus’ next manifestation was as a refugee to Egypt, where his family fled to avoid Herod’s subsequent acts of murderous terror upon boy babies who might possibly be a threat to his throne.

Where do we expect to find this new born king and who do we expect him to be? The pattern of our lives is that of the magi: receive God’s revelation, seek the Light, follow the light, encounter the Savior, offer our gifts, pay him homage.

We cannot be limited by our own expectations, but must allow God to lead us to the real destination of our life’s journey-to the Light who is the newborn king. Then we must allow this king to shepherd us in graceful living. The real challenge is about where one’s heart lies. It is about bringing forth what is good and spending ourselves for others. In this way we become light dispelling the darkness, leading others to the Light that never fades. When we become the light, the light goes a long, long way.

Adapted Renew International Prayer Time Cycle A

Epiphany of Our Lord

I received the following in an email and offer it for our reflection today:

Image by Robert Antoniak

Light-giving God –
We are magi on a caravan of lumbering hope, traveling through grinding wind and glaring sun, chill clear nights and skin-baking days.
We come to seek Your light.

We come lumbering in hope, each of us on our own life’s journey
– traveling through times of loneliness and fear,

through heartbreak and anger,
through grief and loss,
through economic uncertainty,
through fear for loved ones caught up in war,
through our own private crises,
through the extended shock of horrific images of hurricanes and genocide,
through struggles with the mental illness of a child,
the disintegration of a parent,

the simple letting go of a child more ready to be an adult
than we are ready to allow their growth,
through the changes in a new marriage,
the welcoming of a new child,
the completion of a degree,
the vision emerging in a new work of art.

We come lumbering in hope on a journey of joys and sorrows.
We come as magi to seek Your light.

But Light-giving God,
we admit that we are also Herod the King,
trembling in fear at the news of the rising of Your light.
We admit that we are afraid that the light of Your truth may indeed rise,
and it may be threatening to us.

Like Herod,
we fear the rise of the truth of the harm we have done to others to build

our own palaces and to fortify our own power;we fear the rise of the truth that lies beneath the political spin we put on our own lives;

we fear to admit to ourselves the truth that may rise within us as we
acknowledge the pain of what we have done to others and what others have
done to us.

Light-giving God,
we come as trembling Herod, afraid of Your light.

But Light-giving God,
we are also magi wrapped in joy to arrive at the manger that cradles Your light.
We greet the rising light that Herod so fears.
We, too, fear this light, this truth.
For here we meet Your light and truth, the truth of our own powerlessness.
We are magi, wise and respected sages.
We are Herod the King, holding wealth and power.

Yet we are no more than this helpless infant,
no more than human flotsam on the tidal wave of time,
human beings, no more and no less.

Light-giving God,
let us sit in stillness in the light of this truth of our powerlessness,
until we can see Your real light cradled here,
until we are enveloped in the assuring light of this truth,
until we shine in the light of the common humanity You reveal to us here.

Light-giving God.
We lumber together in hope as Your church to lift Your Light.
Let the light that we lift be this light visible in the manger.
Let us lift not the light of our congratulation of ourselves,
not the light of belief in our own superiority,
not the light of our belief in our own narrow presuppositions,
not even the light of our own church.

Let us lift the light from You that we can encounter here,
the light of the power You make known to us
in the truth of our powerlessness,
the light we can see as we sit quietly as magi at the manger
learning to be at ease with our common humanity,
learning to be at ease with You.

Let this be the light we lift as a beacon in the darkness we know best.
As we lift that light,
may we too be lifted to know the true power that lies among us
waiting to rise as a beacon of our true hope.

Dr. Susan M. (Elli) Elliott
January 9, 2005/revised 2008