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Sunday, 6 January 2013

Baboushka

Epiphany always reminds me of the story of Baboushka.  It's not just because the story centres around the journey of the Magi, but also because the end of the day of Epiphany has the atmosphere of Baboushka's own visit to the stable: she is the one who sees the aftermath.  She's too late.  The stable is empty, the special baby has fled to Egypt.  It's the atmosphere produced by a bare tree, decorations in boxes, white-looking walls where the cards used to hang.

In one of my favourite moments from Les Miserables (I must see that film before it leaves the cinemas!) Eponine sings passionately about the beauty of the starlit river as she walks beside it imagining herself with Marius.  A few lines later, she stops dreaming and sings "He is gone; the river's just a river."  So it is for Baboushka: he is gone, the stable's just a stable.  The animals have gone back to chewing the cud, the angels have flown, the star has moved on, and much as she might try to grasp some of the holiness of the place, Baboushka knows that she's missed out; and the innkeeper leans impatiently in the doorway, wondering whether his stable might become enough of a tourist attraction that he can start charging people to see it.

Without the glitter and excitement of Christmas, the house feels like just a house.  Every year I face the same challenge: how can I at once allow myself to go with the all-important waxing and waning of the seasons, fasting and feasting, celebrating and contemplating, while at the same time remembering that the person whose life I am following is everlasting and consistent?  How can a season-dweller worship an unchanging God?

Baboushka gets up and continues seeking the Christ Child (and the song that I've known since my childhood goes, "Baboushka, Oh Baboushka, you'll find him in your heart", but she never seems to listen.)  As for me, our family chalked our Epiphany blessings on both doorposts of our house today.  The house is not just a house after all: it's a place where children will grow, where friends will be found, where creativity will blossom (well, that's the hope!) and encounters with the living Christ will be had.

Happy new year!

3 comments:

Mdivgirl said...

I'm not familiar with that story, but that's well put. I do find all this taking decorations down at epiphany amusing, though. I never seem to get around to it until mid-Chinese New Year, which is late January or early February. I'm sure once I'm back in the States and have a real tree that sheds needles all over the carpet I'll be a little more inspired to get moving on de-Christmasing my house. (In Taiwan, there are restaurants, etc., that still have Christmas decorations up at Easter, so I'm going to blame that.)

Mdivgirl said...

I'm not familiar with that story, but that's well put. I do find all this taking decorations down at epiphany amusing, though. I never seem to get around to it until mid-Chinese New Year, which is late January or early February. I'm sure once I'm back in the States and have a real tree that sheds needles all over the carpet I'll be a little more inspired to get moving on de-Christmasing my house. (In Taiwan, there are restaurants, etc., that still have Christmas decorations up at Easter, so I'm going to blame that.)

woodpijn said...

I didn't know the Baboushka story.

I enjoy the excitement of putting decorations up, but I'm such a clutter-phobe that by Twelfth Night I like to take them down and regain some space: I don't find it a sad process.