(E)pistle: Epiphany Chalk

This Sunday morning at the church I attended, we were introduced to the wonderful Epiphany custom of “chalking” the door. The clergy had thoughtfully created small packets of chalk and instructions, which were then blessed and handed out as we left the service.  We could take them home to “chalk” our front doors as a sign of faith to all who enter.  

The doorway of the church was marked too, with the same cryptic letters:

                                                      A 20+C+M+B+23 Ω

Between the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the date of the new year is separated by the first initials of the traditional names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthazar.

As we all know, the Magi (magoi in Greek, from whence we get our word magician) are thought to symbolically represent the recognition of the birth of Christ not just by Gentiles (they were non-Jews from Persia), but also by what me might call the secular intellectual tradition.  The Magi were intellectuals of their day, whose job it was to study the secrets of the universe, especially by watching the heavens.

The Sunday after the Epiphany: What an auspicious day for us to begin Intersession, our winter intensive at the seminary. It began with the arrival of 30 of our Hybrid Program students, who for the next two weeks will be in residence on the Holy Hill. We’ll be together just steps away from the campus of UC Berkeley, which has produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other university in the world—the wise intellectual of our day.

In the Episcopal Church, it has always been the goal of theological education to provide the church with educated leaders, who can appeal both to our heads and our hearts when preaching the truth of the Incarnation. Up until recently, students always lived at seminary while completing their course of studies.  As pressures of employment and family have made that commitment harder, the school added a new path of study, which has become increasingly popular.

The CDSP Hybrid Program combines both the flexibility of an excellent online education with the added relational experience of being on-site together with one’s fellow students several weeks per year.  Just like their residential counterparts, these students effectively bring the Good News back to their home communities, which are located all over this country and the world.  Following the path of the Magi, they “return to the East”—or North, South, or West, as the case may be.

May this new academic year be an opportunity for this seminary to powerfully witness to the saving news of Jesus’ birth to all people—whether they are “worldly wise” or not!

Α 20+C+M+B+23 Ω