Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

From the archives: Epiphany, liturgy, lasagna

First posted January 2014; edited slightly

Epiphany, January 6th, celebrates Christ made manifest, and shown in His glory to the Gentiles, who are represented by the Magi.  A manifestation is when you see something, right?  And "having an epiphany" is often used, these days, to describe suddenly seeing (and understanding) something clearly.

And what is "liturgy?"  A generic definition might be "a fixed set of ceremonies."  A spiritual habit or discipline, maybe.  If you attend a liturgical church, it means that the worship time is laid out ahead of time, word for word: prescribed, observed, repeated.  As opposed to figuring it out fresh every time, or letting everything happen spontaneously.

In Jan Karon's Mitford books, Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest, often goes off by himself to "repeat the office."  He is not going to his office; he is saying his prayers, those that are laid out in the prayer book for different days and different times of day. An office is a service you do for someone, in the same way that we call worship time a service. That's where we get our word "officer."

On a site called The Daily Office West, I found this thought in their FAQs: "The Office provides a framework for your thoughts, needs, concerns, thanksgivings, confessions and resolutions, so your praying becomes extremely personal. You wouldn't build a house without a foundation; once that’s down, you follow a written plan, and after it’s done, you decorate it so it suits your personality. Ideally, the Office provides a discipline; that’s why it’s best used Daily. If you wait until you’re inspired to pray spontaneously, God may be waiting a very long time to hear from you."

Framework, written plan, discipline. What does this have to do with Epiphany, or Charlotte Mason? It's coming, hold on.

Several years ago I posted "Lasagna Without Recipes," meaning that you could add a variety of ingredients, mix and match, leave out the tomato sauce or the cheese or the meat, and still have something that's recognizably lasagna.  But you still have to give it structure with noodles or something else to keep it separated in layers, or what you end up with is not lasagna.  It might be a good casserole, but it's not lasagna, because it's the structure that gives it its shape and identity.

Like lasagna, we need a framework in our worship, our life and our learning. Or at least we can say that a framework gives it more meaning.

In her preface to The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater quotes a passage from Wendell Berry's novel Jayber Crow, about seminary students who "could tell you" but "didn't see."  They could not see the beauty of the world around them, and so did not connect it with the Creator.  She also refers to Charlotte-Mason-style notebooks as things that "teach us to see" AND that are "the liturgy of the attentive life." A framework, a discipline, a structure...and yet a place to add our individuality, our own taste.  ("Us" and "our" also meaning the students, of course.)

A big epiphany, a star in the heavens, might be experienced once in a lifetime, but we can watch for small epiphanies, glimpses of glory. And if we make use of the disciplines of learning, they may help us to keep our eyes open.

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