Saturday, January 4, 2014


In his second chapter the evangelist Matthew treats us to a charming story full of oriental color
and rich with mystery: the story of the wise men that follow a star in search of the infant Christ. We commemorate this story this Sunday on the feast of the Epiphany.

In celebrating this feast the church celebrates the belief that God has expressed and revealed himself totally in Christ. Christ is the “epiphany” (“showing forth”) of God. From now on we have a path to follow in our search for God: Christ.

The search for God is an adventure that starts very early in life, with our first steps as babies. St. Augustine says that we’re created for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in God. And so we find ourselves drawn to the journey, like the magi, following a star.

It’s a long voyage in which grace and human effort are mysteriously united. The star, we might say, is grace, God showing the path and offering us hope. The walking, the doubts and the questions, they’re all part of the human effort.

Seeking God can be a difficult journey at times, and it lasts our whole life. Sometimes the star gets hidden behind a layer of clouds, at other times we feel too tired to continue. Although the journey of the wise men is filled with a sense of gospel joy, it must have been a difficult one just the same. T.S. Eliot captures this difficult aspect in the first half of his poem, “The Journey of the Magi.”

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

May the Lord give us the strength to follow the star, and to help one another on the journey especially during difficult times, when the star is behind the clouds. Le me end with the second half of Eliot’s poem:

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

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