So, I’m taking a quick flip through my Facebook timeline and I see that Patrick Madrid has posted this image.
It stopped me in my tracks.
The stamp had blipped through my awareness earlier this week when both Kathy Schiffer and our human news aggregator, Deacon Greg had mentioned it, but this morning the simple silhouettes against the fiery sky, and the inviting brilliance of the Light, just seemed to pull me in, and it brought on a renewed bout of astonished appreciation for the workings of the Holy Spirit, who often uses the most confounding means and methods — this time a stamp and the U.S. Postal Service — to get our attention and open us to God’s instructive consolations.
At a time when the whole world seems to be changing before our eyes like a tape on fast-forward — with economies being shattered, social norms being challenged and even the security of constitutional freedoms being penetrated — we see the a family uprooted from everything they know, everything “normal” and comfortable and familiar. Not only are they are unable to simply “go back” to the way things were, they are being led into something wholly different, with nothing to go on, but trust.
A man, a woman and a baby, moving against a whole world of uncertainty, injustice and danger.
And how great to see Joseph included in this image. At a time when men — and especially fathers — are portrayed as buffoonish punchlines or optional accessories, we have here a reassuring reminder that fathers are valuable and good, and essential.
There is much consolation in this lovely picture. In the Crucifix we encounter “The God Who Knows” — the one who understands our feelings of fear, abandonment, betrayal, shame, thirst. Here we see “The God Who Knows” familial anxiety, too, and social separation, material deprivation and — perhaps again — thirst. His step-father, obedient to something as ephemeral as a dream, placed everything into the hands of divine providence and led them into new terrain, seeking wells and watering holes as they traveled; his mother drank, that the infant might be nourished. This is a God who has been part of a family unit that worked like a closed circuit of surety and continuance, and a God who also knew all of its stresses.
There is nothing going on in the world, or in our personal spheres, for which scripture and the life of the Christ does not offer an instructive correlation, if only we bother to turn to God, instead of away; if only we bother to seek it out. This stamp, this image, is an invitation to the whole world to trust God because he is always faithful. It says “Ephphatha!”; it says, “I know the plans I have for you…”; it says “fear not, I am with you…”; it says “do not worry about tomorrow…”.
At the absolute baseline of the life of faith we are asked a question: do you trust me? We are creatures who, since Eden, have willfully embraced the illusion that we are in control of everything, when in fact, the only thing within our control is our decision to trust or to doubt; to be open or to be closed; to believe or not.
“The Flight into Egypt” stamp bears the word “Forever”. We are forever meant to surrender our illusion of control; forever meant to be opened; forever meant to trust in divine providence.
Call it a coincidence, if you want. I see the Holy Spirit’s influence all over this.