William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
“O time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to untie.”
A Word of Hope
This evening will be Twelfth Night which is also known as Epiphany Eve in many church traditions. It is the final evening of the Twelve Days of Christmas. (Be sure to open your blinds to see is Twelve Drummers Drumming might be marching up your driveway.) The Season of Epiphany begins tomorrow, marking the arrival of the Magi and their gifts for the Christ Child. In Matthew’s account of the infancy of Jesus, the Magi were nowhere near the stable that Luke mentions in his Birth narrative. Somewhere through the centuries, their arrival date was marked as January 06, but probably two years after the birth.
Whenever the arrival of the Magi might have been, Twelfth Night is an evening of celebrations, parties, house blessings, Kings Cake and the wearing of crowns, at least in some parts of the globe, though not as widely observed in most of the United States. We likely don’t celebrate it here because many of the US Protestant churches consider it a Catholic holiday. It isn’t. The Church of England joins in the party, for example. A Twelfth Night superstition considers it unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night. That could be another reason it’s not that popular among those who find it hard to turn off their LED icicles.
When I read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in college, I had no idea about the origin of the title since I had never heard of a Twelfth Night celebration, but I’ve always enjoyed the idea of “out with the old, in with the new” which was one of the themes of the play. I am looking especially forward to the coming celebrations during this particular New Year as we bid a less-than-fond farewell to the last one. Certainly, the large in-person parties will and should be put on hold for a while, but life will go on. Exactly what our world will look like, time will tell. All of us will have some adjusting and reconstructing to do. “O time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to untie,” says Viola in Act One, Scene 2 of Twelfth Night.
A wise woman, Viola dresses as a man to achieve her goals and teaches us a lot about resourcefulness in the Shakespeare comedy. Her memorable line also demonstrates to us about having patience in seemingly impossible situations. There are circumstances that only time, or in our theology, only God can untangle. Jeremiah 29.11 tells us “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Likewise, Exodus 14.14 says, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Maybe this Twelfth Night would be a good first night this year to meditate on those encouraging verses. We know from past experience that diligence and creative thinking on our
part have helped to persevere in many new or unusual endeavors. We are also assured we are not alone.
O God, we know that for those who love you, all things work together for good; for those who are called according to your purpose. (Romans 8.28) May we hear your call and know your purpose for us in this marvelous New Year.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare