Date: Tue, 07 Jan 2003 14:12:40 +0000 Subject: Epiphany From: Kirstin Johnson To: Just a quick e-mail to thank you for your site, for your sharing & encouraging. I came across it earlier this season, when putting together a "Jesse Tree" package for some friends and relatives with children. We made a Jesse Tree each year when I was younger, and it taught me so much -- intertestamentality (!), symbolism, deeper knowledge of the scripture stories, interplay of scripture, etc., etc ... And it was fun & creative...*And* carried with it all the good things of Good traditions. I have met very few people who know of the Jesse Tree, even at the various Theological Institutes I've ended up at. This Christmas I was amazed at how many of my friends -- both with children and without -- were discussing the lack of tradition in their own upbringing, and the desire to initiate Good, Meaningful Christmas traditions. The Jesse Tree was met with enthusiasm by all...as was celebration of Epiphany. Also, a celebration of St Nicholas. I began jotting this to thank you, and to recommend 2 other readings for your Epiphany Reading suggestions: *"An Epiphany Tale", by George MacKay Brown (3 page short story, one of the best I have ever read, and wonderful potential for discussion with children and adults alike. It is found in the collection of short stories called *Andrina*. Hard to find sadly, but worth the search. I'll include my typed copy here for you.) *"Journey of the Magi", T.S.Eliot -- older children, but again, good dialogue potential Here are three other links I was excited to find this Christmas, and may be of interest to the intent of your site: *St Nicholas: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=23 -- amazing site. Very well done, incredibly extensive *Advent Calendars: http://www.sellmer-verlag.de/shop/Religious.html -- resource for Advent calendars with bible verses, rather than chocolate! The same ones I had as a child... *An internet advent calendar *on* the BBC site -- poetry, short stories, etc. Rather bizarre really, how Christian it is!: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/tv_radio/advent/calendar/index.shtml Again, Thank you. And Blessed Epiphany Kirstin Johnson AN EPIPHANY TALE By George MacKay Brown There was once a small boy and he was deaf and dumb and blind. He knew nothing about Christmas. All he knew was that it got cold at a certain time of the year. He would touch a stone with his fingers. His fingers burned with frost! One day the boy was sitting on his motherıs doorstep wrapped in a thick coat and scarf against the cold. A stranger came and stood above him. There was a good smell from the strangerıs hands and beard. It was different from the smell of the village people; the fishermen and the shepherds and their women and children and animals. The man smelt of sunrise. The stranger touched the boyıs ear. At once he could hear all the village sounds ­ the sea on the stones, his mother at the hearth baking scones, the seagulls, and the children playing in the field. ŒNo,ı his mother was saying to the stranger, ŒI donıt want to buy a pan or a fork from your pack. No use speaking to the boy ­ heıs as deaf as a stone. Look, Iıll give you a scone to eat. Weıre poor. I have no money to buy a thing.ı The boy didnıt understand what the stranger and his mother said. The interchange of sounds seemed to him to be more wonderful than anything he could ever have imagined, and the most wonderful was the strangerıs voice. It said, ŒThank you for the bread, woman.ı Soon the stranger was no longer there. He had taken his rich silk smell and his clanging treasure away. The boy sat on the doorstep as the multitudinous harp of the world was stroked again and again. His mother kneaded dough on the board and stoked the peat fire. Then the doors of his ears were closed once more. He laughed, silently. Another smell drifted across the boyıs nostrils, different from anything he had known. It was like incense of darkness, a circle of bright swift animals. The second stranger touched the boyıs eyeıs. They opened. The things he saw all at once amazed him with their beauty and variety. A few flakes of snow were falling on the dead ditch-grass. Gray clouds huddled along the sky. A cat crossed the road from a fishing-boat below with a small fish in its mouth. Two people were arguing in the door. The white strenuous kind face must be his motherıs. The black smiling face belonged to the stranger. Both were beautiful. The boyıs looked into the gloom of the house. The flames in the hearth were so beautiful it gave him a catch in the breath. Clearly his mother was refusing to have anything to do with the objects the stranger was spreading out before her: soft shining fabrics, ivory combs, a few sheets with music and poems on them. The boy did not know what they were ­ each was marvelous and delightful in its different way. At last his mother, exasperated, took a fish that had been smoking in the chimney. She gave it to the black man. He smiled. He tied up his pack. He turned to the boy and raised his hand in a gesture of farewell. The boyıs mother shook her head: as if to say,ı Thereıs no point in making signs to this poor child of mine. Heıs been as blind as a worm from the day he was born.ı Then, to her amazement, the boy raised a blue wintry hand, and smiled and nodded farewell to the second stranger. For an hour the boyıs eyes gazed deep into the slowly-turning sapphire of the day. His mother moving between fire and board; the three fishermen handing a basket of fish from the stern of their boat to half-a-dozen shore-fast women; the gulls wheeling above; the thickening drift of flakes across the village chimneys; a boy and a girl throwing snowballs at each other ­ all were dances more beautiful than he could have imagined. Then the luminous stone dulled and flawed. Between one bread dance and another, while his mother stood and wiped her flame-flushed brow at the window, she became a shadow. The boy as sightless as he had ever been. He laughed, silently. It was the most wonderful day the boy had ever known. And still the day wasnıt over. He was aware of a third presence at the door, lingering. This stranger brought with him smells of green ice, flashing stars, sea-pelts. The mother, at her witıs end now, mixed with those smells of the pole her own smells of flour and butter and peat-smoke. The boy knew that his mother was angry; the smells came from her in fierce thrusting swirls. It was enough to drive the most importunate pedlar away, but the man from the far north stood mildly at the threshold. The boy could imagine a bland quiet smile. His motherıs anger never lasted long. Another smell came to the boyıs quivering nostrils: ale. His mother had poured a bottle of ale for the stranger, to refresh him for his journey. And now the smells of ice and fire and malt mingled gently in the doorway. ŒI wonder,ı thought the boy, Œwhat theyıre saying to each other? The same beautiful things as before, I expect. Their hands and their mouths will be making the same good shapes.ı It seemed a marvel to him that his ears and his eyes had been opened both in one day. How could any human being endure such ravishment of the senses, every hour of every day for many winters and summers? The winter sun was down. The boy felt the first shadow on the back of his hand. It was the time now for all the villagers to go indoors for the night. But this day they didnıt go straight home. The fishermen and their wives and children came and lingered on the road outside the boyıs door. He could smell the sweet milk breath of the children, and the sea breath of the men and the well-and-peat breath of the women. (Also he could smell the ashen breath of one old villager who would, he knew, be dead before the new grass.) The villagers had come to stare at the stranger. The aroma of the malt ebbed slowly. The boy felt the stone shivering; the stranger, having drunk, had put down his pewter mug on the doorstep. Then he felt the touch of a finger on his locked mouth. He opened it. All his wonder and joy and gratitude for this festival day gathered to his lips and broke out in a cry. His mother dropped her baking bowl on the floor, in her astonishment. The bowl broke in a hundred pieces. The old man who was soon to die said he had heard many rare sounds in his life, but nothing so sweet and pure as the boyıs one cry. The youngest villager was a child in her motherıs arms that day. She remembered that sound all her life. Nothing that she heard ever afterwards, a loverıs coaxing words, or a lark over a cornfield, or the star of birth that broke from the mouth of her own first child, no utterance seemed to be half as enchanting as the single incomprehensible word of the dumb boy. Some of the stupider villagers said he had made no sound at all. How could he? ­ he had never spoken before, he would never utter a word again. A mouse had squeaked in the thatch, perhaps. The stranger left in the last of the light. He joined two other darkling figures on the ridge. The villagers dispersed to their houses. The boy went indoors to the seat beside the fire. How flustered his mother was! What a day she had had! Her baking interrupted by three going-around men ­ her best blue china bowl in smithereens ­ her poor boy stricken with wonderment in the shifting net of flame shadows! She had never seen him like this before. He touched his ears, his eyes, his mouth, as if his body was an instrument that he must prepare for some great music. And yet, poor creature, he was as dumb and deaf and blind as he had ever been. The boy sat and let the flame-shadows play on him. The mother washed her floury hands in the basin. Then she crossed the flagstone floor and bent over him and kissed him. He sat, his stone head laved with hearth-flames.