It's not that I don't want to start a new season, one swept clean and free of dry pine needles. And I am probably the last blogger on earth still posting pictures of Christmas decorations. I certainly didn't have time last week to show any of this to you, so that's one reason for you to indulge me.
But honestly, it's not time yet to go. Linger a while longer in Bethlehem. Hear the rest of the story with the ears of faith.
Wise men sought him.
It took them some time.
Before we plunge into hurries and worries, being oh so grown up with our resolutions and brisk attention to business, what more can be found here?
I have learned that if I am a somewhat barely attentive daughter of Mother Church, just simply trying to do what she does, when she does it, I will learn something. In the past I have had good intentions about Advent -- and many insights -- and then a Christmas avalanche of presents, food, company, and exhaustion has buried me...
She has a few more things to teach, however, about the coming into the world and time of Jesus Christ.
Those wise men did not take their eye off the star. Their pursuit necessitated the perfect balance of faith -- plunging into the darkness with only a distant light for a guide, and what, pray, if the night be cloudy? -- and reason: a lifetime of study, pondering, thoughtfulness, and dedication to following one's conclusions to the utter end.
The Epiphany, celebrated yesterday and, as far as I'm concerned, tomorrow night (Twelfth Night) as well (or, if you like, Wednesday, January 6), since I'm not ready and there's always another chance with God, will give us the moment to bring some important thoughts to fruition in our lives, if we let it.
Take Psalm 2, for example, which popped up a couple of times this season, and again this morning. An interesting juxtaposition with the Feast of the Incarnation, if you ask me. Do you mind if we look at it together for a quick bit?
- Why do the nations protest and the peoples grumble in vain?
- Kings on earth rise up and princes plot together against the LORD and his anointed:
- "Let us break their shackles and cast off their chains!"
- The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord derides them,
- Then speaks to them in anger, terrifies them in wrath:
- "I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain."
- I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, "You are my son; today I am your father.
- Only ask it of me, and I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth.
- With an iron rod you shall shepherd them, like a clay pot you will shatter them."
- And now, kings, give heed; take warning, rulers on earth.
- Serve the LORD with fear; with trembling bow down in homage, Lest God be angry and you perish from the way in a sudden blaze of anger. Happy are all who take refuge in God!
Of course these kings can be actual kings or rulers, and as such, they better watch out, because it does not bode well for them if they don't bow down in homage to the true King.
But it struck me that the kings could also be material forces, matter, the world, the "many", the part of creation that intractably resists the spirit. These things plot and rise up against us: the daily grind, dirt, cold, disorder, entropy itself.
(I dare say that mothers -- other than, say, ditch diggers -- have a harder time with all this than most. All that we do seems undone so very quickly...)
But when all this is put under His dominion, its nature changes. It's still clay, but he can shatter it. It doesn't rise up in the same way that it did in the time of darkness -- a time, by the way, that can easily obtain at any moment that we lose our grip on what this psalm is trying to tell us.
It's almost as if what has to be expressed here as wrath and anger is really just the unimaginable power of God over things that seem themselves very powerful.
In other words, we could step back and see this as all a battle that goes on above our heads, so to speak -- between the forces of darkness and those of light. This psalm presents that thought simultaneously with another one -- that there is grumbling (by me? certainly by everyone else!) and there is that darned world that can only be ruled with iron, the world that forgets Who it is who came to make holy every speck of it.
And then we see it with His eyes: God just laughs it all into the proper perspective, and, indeed, to scorn. Like any father (a bit scary, a bit larger than life, giving us a glimpse of what his struggles are, but then quickly recognizing that we, his little children, can't possibly take it all in), he sweeps it all away: take refuge in Him! He just laughs.
Here's an easy cake, adapted from the Joy of Cooking, that bakes up well in a pointy bundt resembling, or perhaps faintly suggesting, a crown. I will try to make one like it tomorrow:
This, of course, is a picture of my beet cake. I can't take a picture of a cake I haven't made yet, now can I?
Four Egg Cake
Good because you use an equal amount of egg yolks and egg whites. It comes out like a light pound cake, if that's not too oxymoronic for you. Don't use cake flour if you use a bundt pan, or it will be so tender it won't come out properly. Many is the tear I've wept over that.
2 2/3 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour if using bundt pan – sift before measuring
2 ¼ tsp. Double-acting baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
Beat in one at a time:
4 egg yolks
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla or 1 tsp vanilla and ½ tsp. Almond extract (almond would be very appropriate for Twelfth Night, because the traditional French gateau de roi is an almond cake, but it's far too rich for the last thing you eat in a fortnight or more of feasting.)
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 parts, alternating with
1 cup milk
Beat batter smooth between each addition
Beat until stiff but not dry:
4 egg whites
Mix ¼ egg whites into batter to lighten. Fold the rest carefully into batter.
Bake at 350° in greased layer pans (line with wax paper) 30 minutes or greased and floured bundt pan about 50 minutes.