'Sunset over a River'
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ... Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man's eyes. He told him, "Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "sent"). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
*Gospel of John 9.1, 6-7 (NLT)
Entire wars have been based on our inability to see.
*Natalie Goldberg. The Great Failure.
A friend, a social worker with veterans, invited me to their art exhibit. She prepared the exhibition, displaying the veterans' artwork and with delicious foods. For varied reasons, healthwise and work-related, I reluctantly agreed to attend. I had no idea the impression the art and interaction with the veterans would have on me. I went to support my friend, but the gift I received was so much more.
After entering the exhibit, I began moving among the works of art, mostly paintings, stretched adjacent to four walls. The beauty of the art surprised me. The works were beyond what I thought non-professionals would be able to do. And the feeling that arose within me and the tears seeking an exit from my eyes surprised me.
I was mystified: "How is this touching me so deeply? What is the meaning of this?" The same deep, tender sensation surfaced in speaking with the veterans. It seemed I had stepped into another place - in some way, I did.
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The Christian tradition speaks of epiphanies. Other traditions speak of the same, but with different words. "Epiphany" is from the Greek "to show, reveal." Epiphanies are revelations, appearings, unveilings of the Sacred; they can occur anywhere and most often come as total surprises. Grace shows up and greets us with a joyful, awe-inspiring "Hi!". We encounter what seems oddly familiar and unfamiliar. The meeting is like a beautiful memory we had forgotten or a dear friend we had not seen in many years appearing at our door.
An epiphany is a sudden interruption to the routine of life. This unexpected pause reminds us of the undercurrent to all the happenings in our life. This sacredness has been with us even in potentially long periods when we felt forsaken by Life and Beauty. We recall a stream of living, life-giving water ever-flows even amid the arid times, those times we feel cut off from spiritual vitality and meaning. We see our mundane lives are holy.
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Breakthroughs of the Sacred leave an echo. Even one epiphany can encourage us for the remainder of our lives. I had an epiphany at age nine that has cast its blessing over me the last fifty-one years.
These divine visitations, large and small, remind us what manifested briefly is always present. They remind us we are never alone, and we live on Holy ground. Through these unveilings, we become more sensitive to the Sacred in our everyday, mundane lives, including the persons about us who manifest Light and Love.
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We are moving and breathing in an epiphany, for all life manifests the Sacred. Zen Buddhism is an excellent example of a tradition pointing us directly, nakedly to this ever-present Luminosity so close we often miss It. It does this in two ways: avoiding metaphysical ideas, helping clear away presumptions. Zen moves on the basis that we are projecting the past onto the present experience. The direct, clear view is at the heart, for example, of Haiku poetry.
Natalie Goldberg, a Zen Buddhist and noted writer, in her memoir The Great Failure, addresses this seeing what is obvious to those with clear sight. She writes, "Entire wars have been based on our inability to see." When we do see, there is a clarity and love for all Nature we had not before.
I recall the first pair of corrective glasses I got. When I first put them on and looked out over the town from the optometrist office, I was shocked to see what I had not been seeing. That was such a remarkable moment that I recall what I saw and where I stood now thirty-five years later. I had not been aware of the extent to which I did not see - likewise, with the awakening of the seeing to which Zen points us.
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Lastly, we come to pray that we become epiphanies for others. We devote our lives to reveal the Light for others, to cast our blessing over their lives and our world.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.