March 31: The Mystery of Our Journey

by The Rev. Elizabeth G. Maxwell

I am writing this reflection in early January, in the middle of a snowstorm. We are still celebrating Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and the feast of the Epiphany is coming up- the arrival of the wise ones led by a star from far away, bringing strange gifts for a newborn: gold symbolizing royalty, frankincense for adoration, and myrrh to anoint a body for burial.

In honor of the feast, I re-read T.S. Eliot’s great Epiphany poem, The Journey of the Magi. In it he speaks in the voice of one of them, his life undone by the very wonders they have experienced: “Were we led all that way for Birth, or Death?”

Now you read these words on Holy Saturday, hopefully in warmer weather, and after a deeply meaningful Lenten journey. It has brought us all to Jerusalem, to the upper room and the final meal with Jesus, to his confrontation with the powers of religion and empire, and then to the ghastly hill of death where he yielded up his life completely. Now we come to this sad day, when Jesus’ body rests in a borrowed garden tomb. We sit with our grief, with the awe-ful gift that has been given, in silence. We sit with each other, and with ourselves. There is so much we do not know: about beginnings and endings, and the mystery of our journey with God.

Have we come all this way for Death, or

Birth?