[My lovely bride is the author of today’s post. Bianca is a post of gratitude all unto herself, and that will be coming, assuredly. Marrying into an Italian family is an experience, the depths of which I have yet to truly plumb. Traditions are huge with our family, and Bianca highlights one of our family favorites here. I love you sweetie!]
I am thankful for Tomie dePaola. I have enjoyed his stories and illustrations since childhood, but his gift is really in the retelling of famous Italian legends. Enter today’s character: Old Befana.
As dePaola describes her, she is an older, lonely, “busy” woman. Caught up with cleaning and cooking (for no one but herself, mind you) she declines the opportunity of a lifetime. A procession (the entourage of what we call the “three wise men”) passes through her town, close to where she lives, and she is invited to come along. They are seeking the Child,”…this Baby King, has come to change the world. He comes for us. He comes for the poor.” (dePaola) She can’t imagine anyone leaving behind everything just to join this search party, however, so does not follow.
A little time passes and she begins to have second thoughts. Someone with her sense of responsibility can’t just “go,” though. A proper lady would never arrive empty handed. Like the Little Drummer Boy, she had little to offer, but what she had she would bring. In this case, it turned out to be a day’s worth of baking. And after all that she, of course, had to clean her house. Finally hauling her hospitality basket down the road, she realizes that the procession is so far off, she can no longer follow. She also has no idea how to get where it was going. She is sad and frustrated, but a miracle occurs, and she is able to run, then fly, through the air. Unfortunately, she never catches up or finds the Child, so she starts leaving baked goods at all the childrens’ houses she passes in her travels, hoping to have delivered a gift to the One. This is why Italian children awaken to find baked goods on January 6th, the Feast of the Three Kings, or Twelfth Night as it is sometimes called.
It’s a sad story really, if it were real. A miserly person is offered the chance to follow after the Savior of the World, the God of the Universe, but declines because of “business.” This person finally realizes Whom she has said, “No,” to and tries to follow, but is still too concerned with her “priorities” to get on board, and even with a miracle she misses out forever. Poor Befana.
The God of the Universe, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, is never so far that our call to Him won’t be answered. And He doesn’t expect us to bring “stuff”, e.g. gifts, baked goods, a perfect life; He expects US. And there’s really no wondering if “this one’s the One” or “that one’s the One;” the Father-Son-Holy Spirit has always been and always will be, the only One. In real life, the procession continues (because He will always, and continually, be worshiped, regardless of what we ourselves contribute). We are given countless opportunities however, today and everyday, to reach and touch His outstretched hand. The only time He recoils is at our sin, and He has even provided a Way to bridge that gap. Thank you Jesus.
And thank you, Mr.dePaola, for the sobering reminder of the Gift put right in front of us, if only we trust and follow.
[Here’s the link to all of the 31 Days of Thanksgiving posts.]