The practice of celebrating a feast for eight days – an “octave” – was a longstanding custom of the church that was greatly reduced after Vatican II. I only learned about it in casual conversation with my father-in-law years ago. I don’t remember how it came up, but he mentioned that Epiphany was a “privileged” octave, meaning that no other feasts would be observed during those days; therefore, Epiphany ranked higher than the Octave of Christmas, right behind Easter and Pentecost. I rather like the extended time to consider the themes of a feast or holiday. (He and I also have spoken over the years about how we both enjoy the “octave” of our birthdays.) As a feast of insight and new awareness, Epiphany especially seems to warrant multiple days of reflection. Counting from January 6, today is the end of the octave, but if you count from the Sunday, it’s tomorrow.
I spent Epiphany Sunday immersed in the lovely wisdom of Jan Richardson’s Women’s Christmas retreat as severe winter weather took hold outside. Two particular questions from her material stood out like neon signs on a dark street. Both concern the use of time, on a daily level and in the larger context of ongoing involvements, both of which I grapple with constantly.
“In the press of each day, how will I make choices that allow me to feel some freedom about time – that it is spacious, that I will have enough?”
“How to say no even to invitations that are attractive in order to say yes to what I am most meant to do.”
Focusing on small steps, I’m trying to begin each day not by making a to-do list but trying to name my priorities for the day. I sit quietly for a bit to let them surface, and I weigh the relative importance of different possible tasks for that day. And I set aside for this day the items that are not priority. Traditional to-do lists always defeat me; I lose heart because they’re too long! A bigger goal that the priority list might address is my ongoing endeavor to minimize time wasted on social media by bringing greater intention to my use of Facebook etc. (I note the irony of blogging about this!)
During the Octave of Epiphany, perhaps it was a gift of magi wisdom that empowered me last week to turn down an appealing opportunity to take a workshop on Healing Touch. It was only two days long and would have allowed me to offer this ministry at the food pantry where I volunteer, but even so finally I realized it would draw energy away from current commitments that are really important to me. And then the days would be crowded, not spacious. Yes!