Only once a year was this door opened, and that day was today. Many people loved the pomp and pageantry of Christmas, but for Elaine, it was Epiphany that took the cake. She celebrated all the usual observances her little village church offered, and a few extra. Opening this door was one of them, and this honor was now entrusted to her.

Elaine‘s family had been the keepers of the key since time and memory began – and perhaps longer. Every generation it was passed on to the second oldest daughter in a modest but meaningful ceremony upon her entering into cronehood. Of course they never used such words outside of the family, never even said menopause. It wasn’t anyone’s business how and when the key changed hands. If questions were asked, they were deftly and efficiently turned aside in such a way that the asker felt that his query had been satisfied and yet was none the wiser.

The door was a deep turquoise blue, the color of the domes of Santorini sanctuaries, of endless pools in long-abandoned quarries. There was an ornate metal scrollwork seemingly festooned with clusters of ripe grapes upon it. This was no mere feet of artistry – there were two purposes to these ornate bands. The first was obvious: it gave the wood a structure, like a skeleton, to ensure the door’s persistence. It would not do to have this door, of all doors, decay before it’s time. The second was hidden: never spoken aloud, never even hinted that. The guardian of the key invariably realized it soon after she was entrusted with her noble task. It was of no matter if she didn’t, however – early, late, or never, the truth was still there. It had no need to be passed down like an heirloom or a password. It was too precious to need to rely upon something as fallible and frail as human memory. The truth could go many generations before being realized again. It could wait.

So why Epiphany? That was a little murkier. All Elaine’s family tradition would comment was that the one year it wasn’t done, the cows ran away, the children were more difficult than usual, and the tractors wouldn’t start. And not just any Epiphany, but the one on January 19, the one of the Julian calendar. This made the tradition a little less obvious to the village, which wasn’t cosmopolitan enough to know that there were two different dates for the same event, just like with Christmas and Easter.

Not like it really mattered what day it was celebrated, because lightning never strikes twice in the same spot with the same day, but it was the principle of the thing, and a tradition was a tradition.

Elaine opened the door at sunrise as she has been taught. The door would remain open all day, letting the chapel inside soak up the sunlight from the sacred day. Then at sunset, the door would be locked again, sealed for another year. Perhaps the chapel was some sort of holy battery, solar powered, long-lived, and needed the light on just this day to keep the village running smoothly.

Just in case that was true, they kept the population of the village under 100 people to ensure the special energy would not be used up too soon.

Letter and envelope

There are those people who are simply the carriers of tradition but yet they don’t hold the heart of it. They are more interested in the rules and the rituals rather than the spirit.

They are the envelope,
but not the letter.
They are the vase,
but not the flower.
There the cup,
but not the wine.

These things need containers to hold them, certainly. How much of the awakening right now is because tradition has kept things going all along, held it in trust for us? It is as if our ancestors have saved up money for us all these thousands of years and now we are finally able to buy what they were saving for. Not only do we finally have enough saved up but finally what we need to buy is available. This is a time of ripening, of fruition, of opening.

The tradition bearers are confused when the younger generation has started to fill the tradition with heart and meaning. They think the tradition is more important – that it must be kept. They are afraid something will be lost in translation and that the unbroken (they think) chain of transmission will fall apart and the efforts of many generations will be in vain.

It is as if a family kept a house up for many years, cleaning it, repairing it, painting it exactly the same way it had been painted thousands of years ago. They have used the same materials that their ancestors used. But nobody lived there. It was a house, but not a home. Then a new generation comes in and says now is the time for people to live here, and the old generation balks. They are afraid the tenants will damage the house – not understanding the house was maintained for this very purpose.

The same thing is happening with faith traditions right now.

Poem – why is it that?

Why is it that

a woman who shaves her head is a feminist,
but a woman who covers her head is oppressed?

Why is it that

a woman who wears pants modern and hip
but if she wears a skirt she’s old-fashioned and uncool?

Why is it that

if she starts her own business she’s a trendsetter
but if she’s a stay-at-home Mom she’s a fuddy-duddy?

It goes on.

She’s too fat, too skinny
has too many clothes on, or not enough…

Women are seen as
to be looked at
to be judged, classified, compared
instead of as
to be allowed to live and grow and feel
as we are called.

It is done to us
and then we do it
to ourselves,
like adult children
of abusers.

It is about freedom of choice.
It isn’t a choice
if there’s only one option.

Oak trees, oak pews.

The Christians of old had a habit of taking the old tradition and making it theirs. This made it easier to convince the natives that they were on the same page. Sometimes it is the other way around. The natives will acquiesce to the Christians, but secretly keep their old faith.

Look at the Celtic cross. It is a cross superimposed on a circle. The trouble is that the symbol was perfectly fine before the extra lines got added. Originally it was two equal armed lines inside a circle. Think of a plus sign, limited by a circle. The Christians came along and said “Hey, look, we agree!” And they added lines past the circle to make a crucifix.

Trouble is, the symbol means more without the extra lines. The symbol means that we are all connected. It symbolizes the intersection of the divine and the mundane. It symbolizes where spirit meets flesh.

The cross says the same thing, but the cross only appears when Christians have appeared and put it there. The circle cross, or equal armed crosses, appear all over the world and all mean the same thing.

They mean that the divine is with us. This is a holy place. This is a place where God is.

The fact that these different cultures have the same symbol meaning the same thing – that there is something larger than this perceived reality – is pretty amazing. It is even more amazing when you realize that these cultures had no contact with each other. To me this is proof that God exists.

Then there are the Druids. Christians took the oak groves they worshipped in and tore them down. They took the trees and turned them into pews. Instead of a faith that celebrates the Creator in the midst of creation, people were made to sit passively on the very trees that had sheltered them.

Rosary beads are another example. The pre-Christian people used beads for protection. They used amethyst as a ward against drunkenness. They used rock crystal for purity. They used red coral and garnet for similar purposes. Then the Christians came along and said that they are worshipping the stones themselves so they made that a sin. Then when they started using rosaries as a way to measure their prayers, guess what stones were used?

This is no more evident in the Haitian beliefs of Voodoo. They took their gods and folded them into the Catholic saints. They are still worshipping their gods. They just have different names now when the priest comes around.

The old faith gets transformed into the new faith. It gets recycled, reused, repurposed. The old never left, it just changed its face.