New Year, New Journey

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On January 6th, Solemnity of the Epiphany, we celebrate God’s revelation of Himself, manifested in Jesus Christ, to the whole world.  On this feast we usually think first of the Magi who came to adore the newborn King, and most of the cultural customs surrounding this celebration focus on the giving of gifts.  However, the main actor in this event is the Lord: God who reveals Himself as the FirstBorn of the Virgin, and God who gives a star, a guiding light, so those who would seek Him could find Him, even if they weren’t of the Line of David.  To put it bluntly: God wanted to make sure the whole world, not just the Jews, but the Gentiles too, could seek and find Him.  God wants to be found by the rich and the poor, the near and the far, the native and the foreigner, the powerful and the outcast.  This feast celebrates that God has shed His Light on the whole world; He has given His very Self, to EVERYONE.

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Even so, it is for us to seek and to find Him, Emmanuel, The-Lord-is-with-us.

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In more recent years, my favorite part of this story is when the Magi learn in a dream to avoid King Herod, and so “they went home by another route.”  You can read the whole passage as told by Saint Matthew, translated by New International Version, presented on-line by Bible Gateway in the boxed quote below this paragraph.  What I like about this business of “another route” is that often times I too need to “go by another route” after an intimate encounter with Jesus.  When the Lord reveals Himself to me, whether it be in prayer, while reading Scripture, in receiving the Eucharist, in suffering, in serving, in play, in whatever way He chooses, I find it is no longer possible to see the world or myself the same way as before.  What I cherish most particularly these days is that every route, however new, is even-so, journeying Home, as long as I am journeying with Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-12New International Version (NIV)

The Magi Visit the Messiah

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 2:1Traditionally wise men
  2. Matthew 2:6Micah 5:2,4
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Even when there is no particular Herod to avoid, I am called Home by “another route.” This year my “new route” is less mapped-out that any trip or transition I’ve traveled thus far, but I am content and even happy to embrace the adventure.  In my next post(s) this month I hope to explore more my look ahead, but for this entry, I simply want to include many of my favorite works of art, poetry, and music as relate to the Epiphany.

Artists’ Acknowledgements

The banner at the top of this post is a piece of free, on-line clip-art.  The colorful meme with quote from Isaiah is an image I found on Google when searching the verse from Isaiah, but I couldn’t find any artist’s credit.  The artwork of the three kings, a shepherd, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus is an Ethiopian Nativity Scene painted in the traditional style.  And the “Adoration of the Child Jesus by the Magi” is a sarcophagus relief (4th c.), photograph courtesy of the Vatican.

Recommended Reading

For Fun Facts: While there is much mystery surrounding the Magi, there are many things we do know as historical fact.  For a marvelous summary of this history, read the article in The Catholic Encyclopedia on New Advent.
Prized PoetryJourney of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot

Listening List

Awesome Operetta: Amahl and the Night Visitors, by Gian Carlo Menotti
Heavenly Hymns: We Three Kings of Orient Are, by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.; Good Christian Friends Rejoice, by John Mason Neale; There’s A Star in the East, African American Spiritual.
Sacred Song: In the Bleak Mid-Winter, poem by Christina Rosetti, original carol by Gustav Holst, another setting by Harold Darke, and for my favorite rendition performed by James Taylor find it on YouTube or Amazon.
Classical Compositions: Pastoral Sonata, by Domenico Scarlatti

Quote of Note

“Even in the darkest night, the smallest star can shine.”
~*~
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Night Sky, by Van Gogh