BACK TO THE FUTURE! With Christmas and New Year's Day falling on a Tuesday AND with Tuesday being "bulletin day" (the day on which the bulletin must be sent to the publisher) AND with Karen our superbly skilled secretary off on Fridays we are way, WAY, WAY ahead of ourselves with bulletins. With this Epiphany bulletin we have reached the peak of the "peering into the future" insanity. I am writing this nearly a week BEFORE Christmas and you are reading it nearly two weeks AFTER! Thus I am going to write about things that from YOUR perspective dear reader are past, but from my perspective are still to come. And things may NOT turn out the way I am assuming that they will!
One of our long-standing traditions here in the Jewel of the Yough is the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge. I have "enjoyed" taking part in this hollowed custom since my first year in your midst, this being my EIGHTH refreshing January "dip" in the clear, pure waters of the beautiful Youghiogheny. I have tried for the past three years to convince Father Dan of the soul-cleansing BLISS of this year-beginning ritual. Without success. He always makes sure that one of the Holy Day Masses is scheduled so as to give him an excuse! And I didn't even TRY to persuade Father Julius! Hailing from the tropical clime of Mindanao he can't even endure our normal "room temperature" without his winter coat; I was afraid that he would get frostbite merely WATCHING the adventurous souls who braved the cold ...
Since the Plunge hasn't actually occurred yet (from my perspective) I hope I didn't meet an unfortunate end in the freezing waters of the river that runs through our fare Ville! You, though, can help assure a positive outcome for this what-some-may-think FOOLHARDY undertaking on your Pastor's part. HOW? By stopping RIGHT NOW and saying a little prayer for me. That might sound like a counterintuitive thing to say, but hear me out. God does not exist IN time; like everything else that is NOT God, time is a created reality. Thus God exists OUTSIDE time. So when we talk to God (which is all that prayer really is) that conversation likewise takes place OUTSIDE time. So praying AFTER THE FACT is NOT a pointless endeavour. Such prayer can actually influence a situation that has from OUR time-bound perspective already occurred. In case you think I have TOTALLY LOST IT (yet AGAIN!) let me assure you that this conclusion is inescapable given what we believe concerning the nature of God. And it gets even BETTER!
Some years back I read about a scientific study done to test the efficacy of prayer. Other such studies have been done but this particular one had a unique twist. The investigators split a group of patients who had surgery into two groups. A group of "prayer warriors" prayed by name for one group, but the other (the control group) received no prayer. The study concluded that those for whom prayer was offered did statistically MUCH better in terms of recovery versus the control group. Impressive enough. But here's the twist: all the praying took place (without the "prayer warriors" knowing the fact) a considerable time AFTER surgery, when the patients had either recovered. Or died. So I wasn't just blowing smoke!
So if I am hale and hearty this glorious Epiphany Day, it may very well be due to YOUR prayers dear parishioners, the prayers you JUST NOW offered for me. If my New Year's flirtation with the icy Yough led me to the Father's House, well, it has been nice serving yinz guys n'at!
EPIPHANY: As I have stated ad nauseam in the past, Epiphany celebrates THREE different "epiphanies" (i.e. revelations) of Jesus. In the west we focus-almost exclusively-on the visit of the Magi. But the great feast (one of the four most important in the Church's calendar) also commemorates the Baptism of Jesus and the Miracle at Cana. The three commemorations are given more equal treatment in the East. Actually, that's not quite accurate. The Feast of the Theophany (the term but which Eastern Christians refer to the Epiphany) focuses more on the Baptism than the other two aspects. Which is way in Orthodox countries rivers and waterways are oft blessed on this day. There is not a direct connection but it seems a fitting tie-in to my words about and cover picture of the Polar Bear Plunge, when I, in a manner of speaking, "blessed" the waters of the Yough.
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