Monday, January 5, 2015

Twelfth Night

Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Although our school schedule states that we are starting back into our homeschooling today, I made this day very light: B is doing math only in order to stay current with his tutor's schedule, and J is reviewing his Russian from last semester in preparation for returning to Grossmont Community College for the second semester Russian an algebra class.

I am responding to the Welcome and Introductions posts for my new Brave Writer class that begins today: the Groovy Grammar Workshop which is full to capacity with 25 families and I have several more Definition essays to grade for the Expository Essay class I teach at our homeschool program's co-op Class Days. My students are juniors and seniors and are very hard workers, so I really enjoy their thoughts about the abstract terms they are attempting to define.

But tonight we'll trundle down to the vicarage and enjoy the "Burning of the Greens" as part of the Twelfth Night festivities with Blessed Trinity, a conservative Anglican church that we have been attending on Friday mornings and on Holy Days since 2006. After Evensong, we'll enjoy sherry and treats as well as each other's company as we say farewell to Christmastide and welcome Epiphany.

As I was praying through one of my devotionals last night, The One Year Book of Hymns, I came across a hymn that was more of a poem and knew immediately that I wanted to share it here. The title and refrain were familiar to me because Thomas Howard used it as a title for one of his books that has long been on my "to read some day" list.  

Lead, Kindly Light!
Lead, kindly Light! amid th' encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;
Keep Thou my feet: I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years.

So long Thy pow'r has blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

~John Henry, Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)

The story that accompanies the hymn tells of Newman returning from a trip to Catholic leaders in Italy. On the way, he contracted Sicilian fever and boarded a ship bound home to England. But the ship remained in the Mediterranean Sea, a lack of wind and dense fog keeping them motionless. Restless and ill, Newman wrote this hymn. Finally, the ship's captain pointed heavenward and said, "The star is shining tonight. If a wind rises, we can chart our course. At night one little star is sufficient." Newman took these words as divine assurance. Later he wrote that he had been searching for dazzling sunlight to be his guide, "but He sent me the kindly light of a star to show me the way one step at a time."

The Scripture included with this hymn and story is Revelation 7.15-17, TLB: 

"The one sitting on the throne will shelter them; they will never be hungry again, nor thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat. For the Lamb standing in front of the throne will feed them and be their Shepherd and lead them to springs of the Water of Life. And God will wipe their tears away."  

So as Christmastide wanes and Epiphany comes, and as we start a New Year in God's grace, may we keep in mind that His "kindly Light" will indeed lead us, often one step at a time. But that one step is sufficient if we trust in the One who kindly leads us along His pathways. 

Merry 12th Day of Christmas!

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