I’ve nearly begun to think that my personal liturgical calendar is trying to tell me that I have somehow reverted to the Julian Calendar (pre-16th century—and utilized by many of the Eastern Orthodox Churches) and which presently lags 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar with which most of the world operates. I do not pretend to understand the mathematical and astronomical configurations which must be considered with any effort of measuring time. I only know that more often than I like to admit, I often seem to lag behind the rest of my personal world, whether family, world, or church. It is most likely a lack of discipline, structure, and order on my part (mea culpa), but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! As a result, in whichever season you find yourselves, know that my thoughts and prayers for all do not appear to be constrained by such varied configurations!

Nonetheless, I did note that when it began snowing on the 24th of December, and over the next several days, piled up to close to 18” on my deck, I was amused to look out the window and see a visitor, who introduced himself (so-to-speak) as “Vladimir, a Siberian Orthodox monk” who came to share my wintry world. Garbed in a heavy white robe, both his eyes and beard were visible, and I was grateful to notice his kindness and wisdom in wearing a COVID mask. A couple of days later after a night when the temperature plunged to 6oF, I saw that Vladimir had wrapped himself in an additional 8” of whiteness . . . perhaps even a Siberian monk found things a bit chilly at the DeepLight Anchorhold this year!

A few nights later, the temperature soared to 42o and with the help of some gentle rain, Vladimir departed, leaving behind his supporting limbs of a Douglas fir tree I had raised on Camano Island and brought with me to Bellingham 19 years ago. With the forecast predicting another snow storm of possibly 5” to 8” tomorrow, we shall see if Vladimir returns to celebrate Epiphany with me. Oh, my goodness, the Gregorian liturgical calendar still seems to be lurking somewhere in my bones!

When I posted the photo of Vladimir (along with my description of him) on our neighborhood Facebook page, I found the comments of several others to be a bit startling, to say the least. My search through Wikipedia discovered that upon viewing my photo, their response was virtually the polar opposite (no pun intended) of my own: I had seen the benevolent image of a holy monk, or at the minimum, of a unique snowman! My readers, without exception referred to film characters such as Disney Studio’s Nightmare before Christmas in which the primary character Oogie Boogie Creepy is described as “frightening, dark and scary”; Slenderman, a supernatural horror film in which the title character is featured as “stalking, abducting or traumatizing people, particularly children”; and lastly the ice monster in Disney’s Frozen movie.

In this difficult year we have all been through, as we see 800,000+ Americans die of COVID; as we see our democratic republic tremble on the brink of chaos and dissolution; as we see both the young and the aged struggling for adequate basic resources, education, housing and medical care; and as we see our friends and families stressed to the breaking point by illnesses, financial challenges, and sheer weariness—is it then any wonder that the people despair, and cry out for relief from any source, be it rulers, magicians, or glamorous fairy-tales?

These reflections are perhaps no more than examples of how we each view things, events, and people based upon our own unique views of reality. But my sense is that it can also be seen as a parable of sorts related to our world in 2020, 2021, and now 2022. Do we encounter the “different and strange” as something or someone to be feared, persecuted, and overcome? Or, can we see the possibilities of goodness, truth, and beauty, when we encounter the “different and strange”, whether that be of people and races; ideas and politics; religions and philosophies? I pray that one day we all might learn to see with eyes of compassion and love for all of God’s creation He calls “Good.”

I cannot help be reminded of several stanzas of the Lament I crafted over a year ago. This Lament has formed the root of my prayer for the last 18 months:

Now the seas rise up in great waves; *
orchards die from thirst, and forests burn to ash.
Ahhhh….say the Wise: “All created things have their season.”

We have plundered the earth of her riches, *
crafting idols by the might of our minds.    
Ahhhh….says the Lord, “Have no other gods before me.”

The homeless, hungry, and suffering, fill our streets; *
We fear the stranger, and cast out the different.
Ahhhh…..says the Lamb, “As you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”

Violence stalks our villages, slaughtering even our children; *
rulers scorn our laws and steal the hearts of our people.
Ahhhh…..says the Lord God, “Seek the light and peace of My presence.”

And even more has my soul found strength and peace in the prayer from Psalm 51:9…
“O Lord, in your great mercy, make me hear of joy and gladness, * that the body you have broken may rejoice.”

That psalm is always chanted in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, and the last time I heard it was on that day in 2020. God willing, and health issues and COVID surges permitting, perhaps I can return to corporate worship on Ash Wednesday, 2022. In the meantime, on June 1st, I was blessed to welcome two dear friends to the Anchorhold to join in a Vespers/Eucharist celebration of the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.

And now in a few hours we come to the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” . . . When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11)

May we all in the coming year hear the sound of joy and gladness, as we join the wise men in their rejoicing, and in offering our humble gifts to the Holy Child, born of a woman, Son of God, Prince of Peace, now and forever, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Diocese of Olympia

6 Responses to “Christmas 2021 ~ Epiphany 2022”

  • Kenneth Lee Quesenberry:

    Happy New Year to you, too.
    One of our family relations is Serbian and teases everyone that she gets to celebrate Christmas twice. She was married to my wife’s 1st cousin, whose father is an Episcopal clergyman, now in his 90s. We like to say he’s the radical priest in the family. The other one, now deceased, was a Navy chaplain who in a previous life, graduated from the Naval Academy.

  • Kenneth Lee Quesenberry:

    I thought I’d throw out another comment here, a little relevant to the discussion. I only just thought of it.

    About a month ago, I happened to meet a couple of my neighbors on the occasion of a police visit to the neighborhood. The house across the street had been unoccupied all last year. Someone noticed the front door was open and called the police. They responded and found nothing. One of the neighbors who I had not met before happened to be an Egyptian Christian. I was happy to learn that he had visited a couple of the ancient monasteries in Egypt. That is something I’ve been interested in for a long time, although I’ve actually read more about others, especially the one on Iona. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to discuss it with him to any extent and I only see him now and then. But nevertheless, it’s remarkable who one chances to meet sometimes.

    The house is currently being extensively refurbished and they been making sure the door is closed.

  • Thanks for your comment, Kenneth. Are you perhaps aware of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt? It is probably the oldest, continually occupied Christian monastery in existence. They have a couple of websites with wonderful, pictures and articles, plus a group here in the US who help support them. Take a look if you have time! https://www.facebook.com/ForStCatherinesMonastery/ and also http://www.sinaimonastery.com/index.php/en/ and a blog http://www.fatherjustinsblog.info/ .
    May you have a blessed Lent. Susan+

  • Kenneth Lee Quesenberry:

    If I have time? I’m retired. I have all the time in the world, at least for a while yet. I appreciate your reply.

    Yes, I’ve heard of St. Catherine’s Monastery. Impressive looking. There are many interesting videos and websites on religious houses, plus some interesting ones on Tibetan Monasteries. I may have mentioned that I have been receiving newsletters from St. Gregory’s Abbey for decades. The only monastery I’ve actually visited, however, is the Franciscan Monastery (RC) near Catholic U. in Washington, D.C. I live in Northern Virginia.

    May the Lord keep you well.

  • Kenneth Lee Quesenberry:

    I am starting to worry about you.

  • Dear Kenneth, Thanks for your concern! 2022 was a tough year with numerous challenges to my customary anchorite lifestyle, including many months of accompanying my 94 year old cousin through hospice care. I was so grateful to her last care-giver, a Romanian Orthodox woman, who in Betty’s last hours, held her hand, prayed, and “lit a candle to help the soul ascend to God”. The Lord is always merciful, and having just celebrated my 80th birthday, I look forward to returning to deeper silence and solitude, and – God willing – more writing. Many blessings, Susan+

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