We went walking in Glenveagh yesterday. It is a walk we have done many times but this time we took a notion and walked it backwards, beginning at the end and ending up at the beginning. What has always been a nice walk was transformed. Coming from a height, down now towards the lake, with the hills in the background and a winter sun breaking through was breathtakingly beautiful. Had we not taken a different course we would not have seen it.
It is not the first time over recent months that we have taken a different route. With the restrictions on travel our reliance on the beauty of our own county has increased and we have ventured off well-worn paths to explore new possibilities. Our understanding of and appreciation for Glenveagh has grown immeasurably. Walking the path now from the castle to the head of the glen we know that off to our left is a path that takes you up through woodland into another valley where the golden eagles were reintroduced to this wonderful wild place. Venturing off the main path to the right a sheep track takes you over the stream and up around and behind Dooish, to a tumbling stream and further up to a height where we have stood and watched deer. We have seen how a small river flows along between the hills before it tumbles down in to the waterfall you see from the main path. So when we stand now on that well-worn main path we are aware of the ‘more’ that we have seen, the perspective that we have because of where we have ventured to.
In many ways I could talk about Glenveagh in terms of epiphany – an opening of our eyes, a realisation, a new way of seeing and knowing. As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany now I find myself wondering about how our eyes have been opened over the past year. Are we open to new ways of seeing and knowing? I think it is wonderful timing that Pope Francis has invited us to a year of reflection on Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love, his apostolic exhortation about family life and love. Pope Francis makes it very clear that he sees the family as an image or icon of God. In the relationships of family life he sees an echo of the Trinity. If we want to know what holiness is, Pope Francis suggests we should look at the love that is lived out day by day in families. He does not simply mean in the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus but in our families, messy and noisy, complex and wonderful as they are. In Amoris Laetitia as well as in all Pope Francis’ other writing he reminds us constantly that we live in a world charged, brimming over with the presence of God.
In these weeks and months of Covid restrictions it is painful and frustrating not to be able to attend Mass. We may well question the rationale of many of the guidelines. It would be a terrible mistake however to fall into the trap of feeling like victims, feeling that, because we cannot receive the Eucharist we are bereft of God’s presence. The generosity of God’s goodness and grace is not limited.
The impact of a few days of terrible weather, the touch of cabin fever added to the normal niggles of family life and amplified by the strain of constant Covid vigilance had left me feeling wound up, hassled and somewhat overwhelmed as we headed off on that walk yesterday. We left the path at one stage and came down to the shore of the lake. I hunkered down watching the winter sun reflecting off the water as it gently rippled. The sun was a white orb at the top of the glen. It occurred to me that it was not unlike a monstrance holding the Eucharistic host during exposition. Here for me was a moment of Eucharistic gratitude, of healing reconciliation, of confirmation of God’s grace. A change of direction – a new perspective – an epiphany.
This pandemic has sent us all on a journey that we could never have expected. Let’s be open to the new perspectives it may offer, the epiphanies it may present us with.