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Julie VanSpall – Home Front

Epiphany: the preparation continues

Voices Jan. 7, 2019

Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas tells us, “We need to recall that the Magi do not go to Bethlehem in our stead but merely in advance of us. They represent us in being open to the movements of divine grace. They represent us in seeking out the Lord of all creation. They represent us in finding Him.” (Julie VanSpall photo)

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an epiphany is “a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you.” We all know the story of the Magi and how their epiphany led them to the Christ Child, but what does the Epiphany mean to us today?

Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas tells us, “We need to recall that the Magi do not go to Bethlehem in our stead but merely in advance of us. They represent us in being open to the movements of divine grace. They represent us in seeking out the Lord of all creation. They represent us in finding Him.” 

My epiphany came a little early this year, right after attending an Advent retreat led by Lisa Marquis. As mentioned in my last column, Lisa helped us prepare for Christ in our hearts. Fittingly, Lisa was also visibly pregnant, making her personal experience with “waiting” delightfully obvious.

As I watched Lisa, I felt a connection to her, as I suppose all mothers tend to do. I remarked to a friend that I still see myself in that child-bearing stage. Pregnancy is life-changing for many reasons and I think all women who have been pregnant share that common bond. Furthermore, each time a woman becomes pregnant, whether that pregnancy results in a live birth or not, whether it’s a first pregnancy or a tenth, it’s a brand new and cherished experience.

Pregnancy and early childhood parenting have impacted my life more than any other stages so far. Even though I often still see myself there, I must admit that I’m actually looking through a rear-view mirror. After all, the day this column runs will be my fiftieth birthday, and unless I’m like Elizabeth welcoming a child in old age, I have moved on; however, in my mind, I am still that young, pregnant woman with a toddler - or two, or three - in tow.

During Lisa’s talk on Advent, she reminded us of Mary travelling to help Elizabeth, as they both waited for the births of their babies. Even though she herself was pregnant, Mary walked a great distance to generously assist her older cousin. Lisa reminded us that, as she walked, Mary was carrying Christ’s feet within her and that, as she helped Elizabeth, she was likewise carrying Christ’s hands.

In her prayer, “Christ has no Body,” St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, we too, are called to be Christ’s hands and feet, here on earth:

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.”

My pregnancies were times in my life when I was deeply involved in God’s creative process, feeling someone’s hands and feet literally within me, as young souls dwelt inches from my own heart. Pregnancy and healthy births are privileges I don’t take for granted, and my epiphany in all of this is that God wasn’t finished with me after my last baby arrived.

Even though I’m growing further away from the baby stage of parenting, God wants me to grow closer to Him and spend more time as a player in His creative process. Now, I must spiritually carry Christ into the world, as keenly aware of this mission as I was of my pregnancies.

I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I do know that I must continue to focus on gestating my soul to be worthy of His kingdom. As Reverend Stravinskas reminds us, “All of these epiphanies prepare us for the final epiphany when the Lord will come not as the helpless Babe of Bethlehem but as the very Judge of the Universe.”

Advent may be over, but Epiphany reminds me that my time of preparation is still in progress. Like the Magi, I must find the Lord. Let me be His hands and feet.