The way the poet T.S. Eliot imagines them seems right to me.
The Magi lived a life packed with privilege: summer palaces, lounging on terraces, silken girls, sherbet served cool and sweet. Yet, for all its delights, this for them was not enough. In fact, each pleasure indulged only increased the unignorable gnawing within…the craving for an Infinite Something to satisfy all longing.
Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Magi as "men with a restless heart" who were "driven by a restless quest for God...filled with expectation.... They were looking for something greater.... They wanted to know how we succeed in being human." They were people "inwardly seized by God."
Maybe the Magi prayed like Saint Therese of Lisieux: "Is this pure love truly in my heart? Is my infinite longing not a dream and an illusion? Oh, if it is, then enlighten me! You know that I am seeking the truth." And God answered! He sent the star.
Our own distressing restlessness is in fact a grace goading us to follow the Magi's lead. Instead of succumbing to the darkness, we are to search it.
Saint Thomas Aquinas encourages us: "We must bear in mind that a fervent desire of divine love will not permit the faithful soul to rest until it finds its Beloved, because a true desire, when fulfilled, delights the soul."
The mystery of the Epiphany celebrates that moment in history when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared (Ti 3:4), manifested in the flesh (1 Tm 3:16). Even more: this is a saving event that never ends. The Epiphany literally manifests the method by which God unceasingly breaks into our life, shaking us out of our inertia, rekindling castoff desires, and spurring us to a depth of living we thought impossible. God comes to us a surprise.
The Father does not send a teaching, a message, but his Son in the flesh. For "an idea to be suggestive," wrote the author William James, it "must come to an individual with the force of a revelation." It is the Epiphany's "force of revelation" that moves the Magi to leave behind old lives and accede to an idea that, before the appearance of the star, would come off as absurd at best: the King of our life lives now in the world and wants us to be close to him. "For man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him," teaches the Catechism, "God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith" (CCC 35). Epiphany is the offer of that grace.
God comes to us a surprise.
Gaudium et Spes famously states that Christ incarnate "fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (22). This extends even to the murky and repulsive realm of our sin. Saint Romanos the Melodist envisions God coming toward Adam, who wallows in the self-induced darkness caused by his fall. God calls "to the disobedient once again with his holy voice:"
"Adam, where are you? From now on, do not hide
from me; I want to see you.
Though you are naked, though you are poor,
do not be ashamed, for I have become like you.
Though you desired it you did not become a god,
but now, by my own will, I have become flesh.
Draw near me then and recognize me,
that you may say,
'You have come, you have appeared,
the unapproachable Light.'"
By the light of the Epiphany star we can see God seeing us...and not condemning us. By the light of the Epiphany star we can recognize the presence of the One who himself draws near to fulfill every desire.
From the manger ascends the Savior's silent plea, Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).
"No one has ever created a masterpiece by gazing upon himself. Every masterpiece is born while gazing upon an other" (M. Zundel). So the Magi go to gaze upon the divine Boy, and by so doing are changed. We worship with their wisdom. The Magi "stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it" (Saint Teresa Benedicta/Edith Stein).
As the Magi return home by a different way, what marvel that they have themselves become blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world (Phil 2:15).
Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. "The Magi: Men with a restless heart." lead editorial from Magnificat (January, 2018): 3-5.
Reprinted with permission of Magnificat.
Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. is Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat. He is also a playwright and director, the author of more than a dozen plays and many books including: Mysteries of the Virgin Mary: Living our Lady's Graces, Made for Love, Loved by God, Praying with Saint Paul: Daily Reflections on the Letters of the Apostle Paul, Jesus, Present Before Me: Meditations for Eucharistic Adoration, and Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI.Copyright © 2018 Magnificat
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