An Epiphany reflection by the Reverend Mary Mackin
In T. S. Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi,” one of the wise men recalls a journey to a far country that he made in his younger days. “'A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of year for a journey, and such a long journey: the ways deep and the weather sharp, the very dead of winter.’” It was “a hard time,” he says, but they arrived “not a moment too soon.”
I grew up in two evangelical churches, a Presbyterian one and a fundamentalist Bible Church. But after graduation from college, my journey took me away from the church and into the wilderness. I figured I could be a good person without the church, and I found I couldn’t worship the fire-and-brimstone God of my childhood. I would go it on my own.
Then one day, I was driving down a New Orleans street I had driven down many times before, past the First Presbyterian Church, and I suddenly knew – knew throughout my body – that I was going to go there. I didn’t want to; “no, no, no,” I thought, but the next Sunday I slipped in the door and sat in the back pew. It was a first step; I flitted in and out of that church like a shadow. After Cooper and I got married, he continued to attend his Roman Catholic church and I the Presbyterian one.
One day, a friend of Cooper’s invited us to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for a sung Morning Prayer service on the following Sunday. Cooper typically attended the Saturday vigil mass and played tennis on Sunday morning, so he couldn’t go, but I said, “I’ll go.” When I walked into the church, the space surrounded me with warmth; it smelled of old wood, furniture polish, candle wax, and church. I heard the muffled whispers of people talking, the choir finishing their practice, the hush descending on the congregation as the service was about to start. The service was powerful – rich in music, language, and liturgy. My heart swelled; I knew I was home. I had arrived “not a moment too soon.”
And what about you? Where has your journey taken you? What have you discovered? The wise men found nothing less than the Christ child, whom they worshipped, whom they recognized as king, and who changed their lives forever. What about you?
Photo from St. Paul's by the Reverend Caroline Carson