Epiphany 2014: There Must be Some Mistake!


From W.H. Auden's Christmas Oratorio, For the Time Being:

For the garden is the only place there is, but you will not find it
Until you have looked for it everywhere and found nowhere that is not a desert;
The miracle is the only thing that happens, but to you it will not be apparent,
Until all events have been studied and nothing happens that you cannot explain;
And life is the destiny you are bound to refuse until you have consented to die.

Therefore, see without looking, hear without listening, breathe without asking:
The Inevitable is what will seem to happen to you purely by chance;
The Real is what will strike you as really absurd;
Unless you are certain you are dreaming, it is certainly a dream of your own;
Unless you exclaim -- "There must be some mistake" -- you must be mistaken.

What do those annoying English majors call it when they dissect a poem? Explication? Don't do that with Auden's masterpiece. Maybe just say it out loud to yourself, see how it sounds. What sounds beautiful to me is the last line: Unless you exclaim--"There must be some mistake"--you must be mistaken. To have so many blessings, so many companions, and a camera to capture them with this Christmas? There must be some mistake.

For you liturgical folk, we're entering into the Season of Epiphany. Epiphany means "manifestation" or "striking appearance," and the Church feast day commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus and thus Jesus' physical manifestation (God in human flesh) to the world--skeptics, magicians, rulers, shepherds, and lepers. Whether that's your thing or not, these 12 days between Christmas and January 6 can be a time of manifestation if we let them--What's trying to happen in our lives? What are the things we need to say "yes" to? What needs a firm "no?" What miracles are already happening?

For the time being, as Auden would say, here are some Christmas moments: