The magi are seeking Truth. Am I seeking the Truth and finding it in Jesus Christ? Does this Truth lead me to a greater humility? What road am I on? How deep have my travels been? Read on as M. Rebecca opens up these questions further for us to ponder.
At Christmas we had the image of four wise women. One of them was St Catherine with her hands open and empty - ready to receive the Baby Jesus when he came into the world. His joy and excitement was uncontainable as he was determined to be held and carried by Catherine. Today we have the image of 3 wise men coming to the Baby Jesus with their hands full - carrying gifts for their newborn King. We can continue the image of Jesus trying to wiggle out of Mary’s lap to receive, not just the gifts but more importantly, the magi themselves. Their joy and excitement must have been uncontainable as they hoped to be received by the Jesus Christ.
Tradition has it that the names of these 3 magi were Balthasar, Casper, and Melchior, but C K Chesterton said they could have just as easily been Plato, Pythagoras, and Confucius! The 3 magi represent all those who seek Truth and desire wisdom. The question is, can we be included as one of these magi? What do we search for with energy, focus, and zeal? It is a trickier question than first appears. Do I really seek the naked Truth and all its challenges and paradoxes? Or do I seek ‘my truth’ which can be “a cut and paste” version, conveniently tailored to my way of living. If looking at Truth in the face, if seeing our God as a helpless infant, does not challenge me to better living…I may need to ponder again what it is I truly seek.
There is another way to ask this question: Does the truth I seek lead me to greater humility? We can say the star symbolizes Truth. But we could also say that the star symbolizes humility? Both Truth and Humility lead us to God. How else but through these means could one receive Christ? Many saints (Sts Bernard, Teresa of Avila, Therese…) have been quoted as saying “Humility is Truth” - both are essential to stay steady on the inner spiritual journey. St Bernard said “It is not necessary for you to cross the seas, nor to pierce the clouds, nor to climb mountains to meet your God. It is not a lengthy road that is set before you; you have only to enter yourself to find Him.” With that in mind, how far have I gone in my own journey? How deep have my travels been? Do I realize that every single obstacle on my path and journey can be conquered by humility? Is not the guiding star a symbol of humility…for to remain humble is to be guided by truth. And how do we gain this humility? The magi help us with this by their example …by kneeling before the infant Christ in adoration. There lies the beautiful, vulnerable truth…and there lies our King and Savior, teaching us everything there is to know about love and life.
All of us are guided by a star. However there are many stars we can follow – the question is where does ours lead us? There are so many competing stars, so many distracting lights that grab our attention. I saw a Christmas card this year that said on the inside, “Follow your star”! That is so not what this feast is about! There is only one star to follow and that is Christ who is “the light to all the nations”.
In our Vigil hymn this morning it referenced that the same star that caused the wise men to kneel and adore caused Herod to do violence and kill. Jim Jones followed a star just like Dorothy Day. Herod and Jim Jones followed the Star of deception in pride and arrogance; Dorothy Day and the magi followed the Star of Truth in humility. So we must keep our eyes fixed, focused, and faithful to the Light of Christ, the Radiance of Truth, and the Star of Humility.
Another word for “journey” can be “growth” - or more specifically, spiritual growth. Every time we move closer to Christ and Truth with humility, we have taken one step deeper into our journey towards God. As seekers of Truth, we are called to follow their example of admiration and adoration of Jesus Christ. I think that Evelyn Underhill (?) said adoration widens our horizons - and I would add that adoration also expands our hearts! Adoration dissolves our limited interests and self-focus as we move into the infinite and Divine Reality. It redeems the spiritual life from all pettiness. We cannot adore God while still holding on to all our pettiness, for adoration widens our vision. But on the other hand, if our hearts adore, we can find him everywhere.
One of the paradoxes in the magi’s search for Christ is that it is really Jesus who was seeking them. Likewise our vigilance means being receptive…being receptive to the wisdom that will help us discern Jesus and truly find him right where we are…in this place, in this moment. Our journey, as we said earlier, is within and our vigilance requires humble receptivity and openness. The deeper we go, the wider the vision.
St Bernard, in one of his sermons, said in amazement: “How marvelous the humility of God to come down from heaven in quest of the children of humanity! And how great an honor for us to be sought by God! Not that we seems to be anything of ourselves, but because He who made us has made so much of us!”
Let us not lag behind on our journey but as St Benedict tells his monks “Run while you have the light”… the light of life; the light of that Everlasting Star.