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Saturday, 07 January 2017 01:07

Foundation Day 2017 - A Unique Perspective

Written by Sr. Teruko Ito MM
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Happy Foundation Day to each one of you.  105 years ago today three pioneer women, Mary Louise Wholean, Sara Sullivan and Mary Dwyer came to Hawthorne.  And it marked the birthing moment of a new mission community.  It was then that they began the journey, as Fr. Walsh called it, the journey of faith.

Our Foundation Day remembrance is closely related to Epiphany.  This might be surprisingly to some but Epiphany is not one single event, but a series of events. The morning prayer of Epiphany refers to three mystery moments.  It reads; today the Star leads the Magi to the infant Jesus. Today Jesus wills to be baptized by John in the Jordan River to bring us Salvation.  And today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast.

During this week these events are remembered here but each of them celebrated separately.  The Visit of three Magi is celebrated on this coming Sunday, officially named as the Epiphany.  And today we read the Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism.  The account of the miracle at Cana is read tomorrow. 

So this morning I am going to take these three mysteries, as moments of one organic process called Epiphany and see how this process gives a different tone and shade to our Foundation Day remembrance.

Let us begin with the first mystery, the visit of the Magi.  We know the story very well.  Three Magi came from Persia, traveling possibly over 1000 miles, on  Camels,  a they came following a bright star.  They recognized the Infant as the New Savior and Divine and honored him with gifts.  This is the first Epiphany moment! 

So what is new about this story?   Let us visit the scene once again, maybe with deeper reflective consciousness.  Three Magi have just arrived after a  long journey through the desert.  They are telling their stories that they are men of healing and transformation with backgrounds  in alchemy, astrology/cosmology and medicine. They know the story of Buddha’s re-incarnation: that after 500 some years of Buddha’s death, a Flower star will appear and guide the searchers to the reincarnation of the Great Teacher. Truly the Star guides them to the New Born. In their telling of their desert journey, which started as a solo quest, but now became  a communal process, the world view of the Magi is shifted:  From re-incarnation to incarnation,  and circular to evolutionary history.  Through their reflective consciousness they become aware of a new cosmic relationship that included all, with the Stars and with the hidden power of water that gave birth to the star.  In Jesus something new is emerging, a new consciousness, a new relatedness, a new intimacy of God’s presence. Through the desert they are led to the Living Water, to the Divine in the New Born child.   A sudden insight into the divine reality!  The first Epiphany moment! 

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 And so it was at Hawthorne!  At the very beginning our first community started its journey through that “desert-like ” experience.  Remember that in the late 19th Century, the US had become a leading global industrial power and agricultural power with new technologies.   Hawthorne was close enough to the cosmopolitan city, but far enough to situate life with a hint of "wilderness”.  Our founders chose to live close to the earth and often with water issues, or lack of it.  Being a zoologist Mollie knew the meaning and challenges of water as life connector among all forms of life, especially with animals and plants, in the whole web of life.

The second act of this Epiphany drama is the Baptism of Jesus.  The scene drastically changes from desert to river.  Jesus is standing near Jericho in the Jordan River, recalling the Old Testament event of the Israelites crossing over to the Promised Land after journeying through the desert.  There is a multitude of people gathered watching John the Baptizer calling for repentance.  Jesus meets his cousin, John, and asks to be baptized.

Jesus submerges into the water of Jordan River.   Then the Spirit of God appears upon the water. It appears as a dove recalling the dove that brought the promised dry land and new life to Noah in the Ark.  The voice of God recalls the divine wind that blew across the waters at creation, dried the flood and separated the Red Sea.  Jesus is baptized.  He rises out of the water with the whole of creation. The water accompanies New Creation and all creation is renewed by water. 

God says this is good.  God’s blessing is given to all creations.  “The baptism of Jesus in Jordan River is more than conversion.  It was sacrament of Cosmic Union.”  says Illia Delio.

Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of a new era in history.  It is revealed as a new moment of creation.  John the baptizer and the multitude of people gathered along the Jordan River witness this moment of epiphany.

In 1918, the first  Maryknoll Departure ceremony was held.  And it demonstrated one of the important mission characteristics as crossing boundaries, crossing water.   Today as religious missioners we are continuously being sent to journey into the darkness with potential loss of one’s life, to cross over water, through water dying into new life.

The third act of the Epiphany drama is the first miracle at Cana: Jesus transforms water into wine.   It happens in Cana, the name of the place helps us to connect with the Israel’s history of Cannan, the Promised Land.  The first miracle by Jesus is with water.  As God does in Genesis, Jesus creates through water.  And the Steward calls the creation good. 

With an act of creation from water, Jesus crosses the threshold into public ministry.  This is his first act of ministry.  A new relationship between God and the world begins.  He restores the sacred relationship between water and the human.  Teilhard  de Chardin gives us a hint of how  water and human become connected  in a sacred relationship.  He says “With the emergence of self-reflective consciousness in human, water becomes conscious of itself. 

Water unites all living beings.  All living being participates in a blessing through water.   The whole of the universe is made sacred.   This is the mission of Jesus and we are invited to do the same.

So today we remember three mystery moments of epiphany:  We came to know the hidden water that participated in the birthing of the Star that led the Magi, the baptismal water of the Jordan River that heralded the New Creation and the evolutionary potential of water at Cana that became conscious through human.  Three Epiphany moments emerged through the hidden water, Living water, and conscious-water!  This is an evolution of water through Jesus.  This is water reflection in Deep Time.

As Religious community, Gail Worcelo says, we are on the edge of the next moment of grace, the new emergence, the cosmological phase.  It is the phase of interconnected-ness of all, and Christ in the whole of cosmos. 

We are greatly challenged with a present day reminder that more than 50 countries around the world are caught up in water disputes. There are over 300 potential conflicts over Water.  And many think that the next global conflict will be over Water!  We need to appreciate and respect power of Water more than ever before with a new sense of water in Deep Time..

Yet truly something new is happening through water around us, like at Flint, at Standing Rock, along Hudson River and many more places.  Now we are invited to drink water and be renewed through, by and for water with a deeper sense of history like Indigenous people expanding onto 7 generations into the future.

Let me conclude my reflection with the prayer taken from a blessing of baptismal water asking water in us to be enlivened as we continue to journey into the next moment of grace, the cosmological phase. 

Water that formed in the remnants of ancient stars

       And brought our Day star to birth.

 Water that cooled the nascent Earth.

         Rising from deep within and carried by comets,

         Your water drenched our young planet

         Covered it in oceans.

Water that birthed the first life on Earth

         and each life there after

 Water that fills and flows within every living being.

This water of Stars, Earth, and life you gave

         to bring us into fullness of life in you.

This is the water over which your Spirit hovered at the Beginning,

        the water that cleansed the Earth in Noah's day,

        Through which the Israelites passed unharmed

        In Moses' day,

        And in which Jesus was baptized.

This is the water Jesus calmed,

        and water he turned into wine in Cana,

         and that flowed from his side on Calvary.

Ever-Present God, your Spirit continuously moves within water.

         Enliven the water in us

         so we may remember that all water flows

         with your holy presence.


Today let us be deeply mindful of water, and live immersed in the Living Water.

Have a Blessed Foundation Day.

Teruko Ito

January 6, 2017


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