thinking theology

The Traveller’s Feast

Epiphany is the travellers’ feast. At one time, people would orient themselves by the stars,  whether they were mariners or wanderers. It was important to know the stars in order to  arrive at the desired destination, although sometimes errors led to happy discoveries and sometimes less propitious results. Now we look to the night sky and think about interstellar travel or wonder whether we are seeing stars or satellites we ourselves have launched into the sky.

The stars we follow today tend to be people or trends. The basic questions remain. What do we know about the course of the stars we are following? Are these passages going to be dangerous or easy? Will we arrive at good locations? Who will be our companions on the way? Perhaps now is an appropriate time to recalculate our directions. Are we wandering aimlessly, do we have what we need, will this path bring us to our heart’s desire?

In the hymn, from the poem by Christina Rossetti, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” the closing lines are:

“What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a wise man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.”

Usually, when we set out on a project, we think about what goals we will achieve. In this case, the goal is discovering a nest for our hearts, a repository for our deepest hopes and longing. One of the things we might forget, is what we intend to bring with us. For some people, we might bring the actions we have taken along the journey. For others, we might think about the assets we bring with us. For all of us, however, whether our passage has been smooth or rough, direct or indirect, we can bring our hearts.

And what do our hearts contain but that yearning for belonging, for security, for assurance, for forgiveness, for peace, for joy, for lives made new and tasks completed. So in this season we might ask ourselves about our present direction, about the stars we are allowing to lead us, about what we are carrying deep within as an offering. The goal is the journey itself. At the end of C.S. Lewis’ ” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the children want to repeat the wonders and adventures they have experienced.

“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”

“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”

“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.

“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.

“Are are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

There is only one story really and we all share in that story. There is only one journey encompassing all the travels. How we travel and what we learn depends on the stars we choose to follow, the dreams we dare to carry with us and the Love we allow to win our hearts.

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