Epiphany, 2023

Today, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany, the Manifestation of God.

“And the gentiles shall walk in Thy light, and Kings in the brightness of Thy rising … all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.” (Isaias 60, 3,6)

In years past, we offered the poem, “The Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot, and we do also today, but we have added another Epiphany poem for this year of Our lord 2023; this one from a sainted English martyr,  the Jesuit priest, Robert Southwell.

First, Eliot’s well known poem, which reflects his very modern response to the discovery of Christ.  It is increasingly rare for modern man to discover Christ in any meaningful way, for the bitter irony of the modern intellect  precludes them from receiving the Christ Child with a child’s simplicity.

The Journey of the Magi

by T. S. Eliot

‘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.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Eliot was raised in the residue of protestantism, a non-Christian sect , Unitarianism, which considers itself Christian witout actually believing that Jesus Christ is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, for indeed, Unitarians do not believe in the Trinity at all. Eliot converted  to Anglicanism  at a time when many Anglicans were returning to the Holy Catholic faith.

Now for our second poem:

“They found the child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down, they adored Him.” (Matt. 2,11)

The Epiphany
by Saint Robert Southwell, S. J.

To blaze the rising of this glorious sun,
A glittering star appeared in the East
Whose sight to pilgrim-toils three sages won,
To seek the light they long had in request;
And by this star to nobler star they pace,
Whose arms did their desired sun embrace.

Still was the sky wherein these planets shine,
And want the cloud that did eclipse their ways,
Yet through this cloud their light  did passage find,
And pierced these sages hearts by secret ways,
Which made them know the Ruler of the skies,
By infant tongue and looks of babyish eyes.

Heaven at her light, Earth blusheth at her pride,
And of their pomp these peers ashamed be;
Their crowns, their robes ,their trains they set aside,
When God’s poor cottage, clothes and crew they see;
All glorious things their glory now despise,
Since God contempt doth more than glory prize.

Three gifts they bring, three gifts they bear away;
For incense, myrrh and gold; faith, hope and love;
And with their gifts the givers’ hearts do stay,
Their mind from Christ no parting can remove;
His humble state, His stall, His poor retinue
They fancy more than all their rich revenue.

Had Eliot been able to free himself from the anti-Catholic toxins of protestantism, he would have appreciated Father Southwell’s beautiful, simple and pure poetic tribute to the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course the obvious difference between the two is that Southwell experienced his own epiphany as he suffered the contempt of the world and its rulers for  the love of his Master, Jesus Christ; while Eliot’s epiphany was set in the desolate twentieth century wasteland, our legacy from the protestant attack on the Holy Catholic Church . Eliot recognised that Christian culture was crumbling around him, but his protestant upbringing left him unable to fully appreciate that there can be no Christian civilization without the Holy Catholic Church, Christ’s Mystical Body on earth.

What Luther began, the current occupants seem determined, with a hellish intensity, to do. Perhaps we may be called to follow Saint Robert Southwell. Note well, “… God contempt doth more than glory prize.” That is to say, turn from the world where glory is sought and honored, for God, in these latter days, reminds us that He values the contempt of the world and despises its honors.

Once we grasp this fact, it follows that we understand that perhaps we might learn from the English martyrs, murdered by protestants who were trying to extirpate the Catholic faith. Decide for yourselves what that means during this dark night of the Passion of the Church. For, make no mistake, Golgotha follows Gethsemane.

Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3)

✝︎  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
✝︎  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
✝︎  St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
✝︎ St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin, give me strength against thine enemies!