January 5th 2020 - Perhaps as the New Year struggles into birth, these words form the prophecy of Isaiah about Jerusalem are really for us, to me it seems so:
' See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.' (Is 60:2)
For in our hearts, and deep in those places of our soul and mind where we discover God, we know intuitively that the glory of the Lord truly shines out, but in our everyday world the stories seem dark, the omens fairly dire, the smoke of Australian bushfires mingle with the cordite of gunfire and bombs in the Middle East and elsewhere, all around us we see and hear the cries of the suffering, human and wildlife alike, not to mention the scarring of our little mother the Earth!
Yes, we face uncertain times, but we still have the virtue of hope!
So, in a moment of reflection, let's all of us halt our worryings, grievings, sorrowings, laughings just for a moment, put on hold our political arguments and religious standpoints to be with the Magi in our imagination! I hope you all have a crib or nativity Icon up in your dwelling at the moment and that you let it stay there, if not until Candlemas on February 2nd then at least to the feast of the Lord's Baptism.
Let us just let go of any misgivings we have about entering the story of the Magi, it doesn't matter how many there were, in fact the more the merrier, it doesn't even matter who they were or what they did, all we need to know is that they were, like us, part of the gentile and outside world. They stand for anybody who searches for the truth, but particularly those who seek God, those amongst us who journey on through faith, not knowing all the certainties but hoping and trusting in the Christ God who came amongst us as a child of Mary.
I respect the ancient Christian tradition of honouring their memory, for we have no particular knowledge of what happened after their encounter with Christ, except that they parted from him changed, went home by another way, a metaphor also I would suggest for a deep change in their own lives, but they are for the Christian a reminder that coming to know Christ happens in a variety of ways, all that dreadful fuss about the Amazonian Synod and inculturation of symbols can, through this feast be seen as entirely natural, after all the Magi represent one of the biggest moments of inculturation ever, when the gentile world is embraced by Christ !
As we enter this feast of great light, as we remember the Star that guided the Magi to a brighter and undivided light, Christ that true Morning Star, pause, see yourself as a fourth person in their entourage, what gift do you bring?
Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.
By William Butler Yeats
Office Hymn for the Epiphany
Hostis Herodes impie
The star proclaims the King is here;
But, Herod, why this senseless fear?
He takes no realms of earth away
Who gives the realms of heavenly day.
The wiser Magi see from far
And follow on His guiding star;
And led by light, to light they press
And by their gifts their God confess.
Within the Jordan's crystal flood
In meekness stands the Lamb of God
And, sinless, sanctifies the wave,
Mankind from sin to cleanse and save.
At Cana first His power is shown;
His might the blushing waters own
And, changing as He speaks the word,
Flow wine, obedient to their Lord.
All glory, Jesus, be to Thee
For this Thy glad epiphany;
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost forevermore.
Magi Number 2
Two or three or four or even more, it doesn't matter-
Nor if they were only men-
Or men and women both, magic people gazing into depths and dark
To seek the lights above the heavens
I gaze too, but haven't the wit to know all those stars,
Some now gone,
Dead lights across the billions of years,
For us eternal jewels twinkling in the sky.
What did they think those ancient ones?
Did they care about the journey?
Did they plan in meticulous detail?
Or were there two or three amongst them
Who urged them on in haste,
Heedless of the dangers, wanting only the prize.
Did their servants understand the quest,
Or patiently put up with eccentricities they couldn't fathom,
But guessed was one of those pearls of great price?
Yet in the end the real problem wasn't what any thought,
Not robbers, or weather, or travel weariness-
But evil in the hearts of men and women, that darker place
Where goodness is banished.
Did they see that coming?
Though wise in learning, lore, and in divine things,
When they met Herod, 'That fox', as Jesus said.
(Poor foxes-they have no evil, only native cunning)
Did their insight bore into his unclean heart,
Revealing nastier realms of savage anger and unbridled lust?
Was Salome there too? Or Herodias?
Danger lurked, murder, genocide, jealousy run riot in the soul.
We too know our Herods; sometimes a bit of him becomes a way we act,
Did those magi see this in themselves?
Or had their search opened out a better truth?
Often it is a dream that shifts the conscious into blushing contact
With the Most High God,
For in waking we dare not, cannot see that face.
We are unworthy, truly we are dead,
For how can the greatest love and goodness
Be ours except in the visions of the night.
Always there is another way with God, another route.
The magi took that path, and disappearing
Left the star to light our way!
Fr Robert Gibbons 7 January 2019
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