EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
Jan. 2, 2022
Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
There’s something both mystical and magical about the story of the magi, about who they were and what they were about. I am intrigued by them, those star-struck voyagers off on a journey in search of God-knows-who.
They’re seekers, is what they are, and I think that is what captivates me about them. In some strange and curious way, they knew what they were looking for and yet they also didn’t know. Maybe that sounds a bit zany, as in how can a person know and not know, both at the same time? But that does happen. I’ve been there myself. Haven’t you gone to the refrigerator late at night looking for something to eat but not really knowing what you wanted – only something good, you say to yourself as you stand there in the dark of the kitchen bathed by the light spilling from the open refrigerator? Well, that’s what I think the magi were doing, knowing and not knowing what it was they were seeking.
In search of a king, they thought, but then didn’t know at all about who or where or how. All I know is that I’ve been on that same sort of quest, more than once and probably more than a thousand times. I’m not talking here about going to the refrigerator late at night, though I’ve done that too. I’m talking about all the times I’ve gone looking for more out of life without really knowing what that more would be or could be, and in the end never really finding it. Haven’t we all?
We say to ourselves “I’ll know it when I find it,” except that we never do find it, not really, even though every once in a while we lean back with our arms behind our head and say to ourselves, “it doesn’t get any better than this.” That does happen and we do say that; but then life burbles on, the moment passes, and we’re off again in search of something more without knowing what that something might be.
Then there’s that part about seeing a star and deciding to follow it, again without knowing where it would take them. That, too, is a bit zany, even though there’s a bit of that in all of our lives as well. Falling in love comes to mind. One never knows where that is going to take us. So, too, does deciding what we’re going to do with 40 hours out of every week for the greater portion of our lives. Having children can be another. It all comes down to making commitments of one sort or another. We either do, or we shy away from them and don’t. I suppose you could say that the magi were committed to following the star wherever it would lead, though that brings both them and us back to the seeking, the knowing and the not knowing.
There’s also the part of the story in which they find the child Jesus, leave gifts for him and head for home. I can’t help wondering if they found the satisfaction they’re seeking in a lasting sort of way. Was the quest of their life then over? If they were like me, I can’t imagine that it was over, simply because there are those moments when, oh so briefly, we think we may have found what we’ve been looking for only to go on seeking to find that moment once again.
T. S. Eliot wrote a poem called “Journey of the Magi.” The poem ends with the magi returning home, eager to tell their friends about what they had discovered, about who they had discovered and how that discovery changed their lives. In the poem, no one back home is interested, at least not beyond a nod of the head and a roll of the eyes. It seemed everyone was happy to keep their lives the way they were. The poem ends with the magus who is telling the story thinking to himself that on their journey, they had found life but also they had found a kind of death, simply because it was a joy no one seemed eager to share or believe. That, too, says something about our lives – the realization that each of us ultimately makes the faith journey by ourselves. No one will or can make it for us. That’s a bit of melancholy sadness, the fact that we make it alone, but it’s also a source of strength that we stand on what we know as true whether anyone else chooses to do so or not. Ultimately it’s the story of faith, in some sort of way both mystical as well as magical.
How has seeking been part of your life?
How do you deal with the restlessness that comes with looking for more?