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Spiritual Almanac – Wednesday, January 6, 2021: Katharine Tynan

Jan 6, 2021

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Today is the Feast of the Epiphany in the western Christian tradition.

Epiphany marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas and remembers the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. In Spain and many Latin American countries, Christmas gifts are given on Epiphany and children leave their shoes outside overnight so they can be filled with presents. One of the most common Epiphany custom involves the baking of special pastries like a Three Kings cake that contains a small figurine of the Christ child.

Our inspiration for Epiphany comes to us from the Irish poet, Katharine Tynan. She wrote it to commemorate the death of her friend, the Irish writer Dora Sigerson Shorter, who Tynan said, “died of a broken heart” following the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rebellion in 1916.

The poem is titled “Epiphany: (For Dora, 1918).”


By Katharine Tynan


She carried frankincense and gold
When the Star guided her,
And in her folded hands so cold
She carried myrrh.

Frankincense for the praise she owed,
Gold for her gift was meet,
But myrrh because so oft her road
Was bitter-sweet.

Lay her tired body in that earth
Was holy to her mind!
But the bird-soul flies in high mirth,
Borne on the wind.

It tosses in the Irish skies
Awhile, so small and white,
Ere it is gone — swiftly it flies
Into the light.

She has gone in with the Three Kings,
In silk and miniver;
The gold, the frankincense she brings,
The sharp-sweet myrrh.

FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Flowers of Youth: Poems in War Time (1915) by Katharine Tynan Hinkson

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • On this day in 1929, Mother Teresa arrived in Calcutta to begin her novitiate with the Sisters of Loreto.Some years later, she heard God tell her to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. She said, “It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”

  • Today is the birthday of the “Maid of Orleans,” Joan of Arc in 1412. She was the daughter of a French peasant farmer. Starting around the age of 13, she began having mystical visions in which Christian saints told her to drive the English out of France. After gaining the support of Charles VII, she led the French to victory at the Siege of Orleans. Following her capture by English allies, she was found guilty of heresy and burned at the stake two years later. At her trial, she reportedly said, “One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.

  • Today is also the birthday of John Smith in 1580. As a leader of the Virginia colony, Smith helped establish the first permanent English settlement in North America. He was captured by the Powhatan tribe in 1607 along the Chickahominy River and taken to the tribe’s main village. In the absence of the chief, Powhatan shamans were summoned to perform a three-day divining ritual for the purpose of determining Smith’s intentions. Not long after, Smith was freed and returned to Jamestown, though historians believe the Powhatan didn’t see Smith’s release so much as a sign of divine intention as an opportunity to incorporate the Jamestown colony into the Powhatan’s group of tribes.

     That’s today’s spiritual almanac — thanks for listening. If you liked what you heard, we’d appreciate it if you subscribed and gave a thumbs up to our podcast, or if you’re watching YouTube, our channel.  

Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.


“Epiphany: (For Dora, 1918)” by Katharine Tynan. Public domain.

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