The Magi

by Christine Sine

by Jeannie Kendall

From (click on photo for original.)

The wise men have always intrigued me. Of course the tradition is there – a named three kings bearing no resemblance to the quiet restraint of the Biblical account. There is an air of eastern mysticism that captivates us our imagination and the shiny colours of the children’s nativity costumes charm us.


I wonder if the reality, perhaps, was more prosaic. These were serious scholars, spending hours in quiet solitude, with a deep-rooted belief that the universe is profoundly connected with the fate of humanity and therefore events with a transforming effect on human history must be echoed in the cosmos, and specifically in the stars. Perhaps since Daniel had been given authority over the Persian scholars (Daniel 2), there had been a folklore passed down through their culture of the hope of a Jewish Messiah who would change history.


However erudite however, these were flesh and blood people: individuals with personal histories, families, thoughts and feelings. The journey was a risky one, wild animals and marauders a continual possibility. What if the culmination of their lives’ work turned out to be a fool’s errand? Where would that leave them: their life purpose running out like sand through their fingers? Were there moments of heart-jerking doubt in the middle of the night? Any moments of regret at missing a milestone in their children’s development?


As they knelt (extraordinary in itself that they would prostrate themselves before a child) what mix of feelings must have whirled around their battered and tired psyches? Perhaps amid the joy and relief there was a moment of “What now?” Where do we go when all we have looked towards has been fulfilled? I have so many questions…


Yet, yes, in the end these are the stories of people who, like us, make a journey into an unknown future. Here are my reflections on two of them:


The Magi

I still remember the day I first saw it.

Like nothing we had ever witnessed

For all our hours of study.

It was as if heaven had breached earth:

A dazzling display

Signalling something, surely, to change history.


We could not miss it.


Our wives: well, that was a different story.

Varying from incredulity at our fool’s errand

To outright anger at our desertion,

Hard as it was to explain

The yearning in our souls

That would not be assuaged

By continuing in our ease and security.


The journey was fraught:

One of our party nearly succumbing

To some mysterious ailment:

Reviving only with his desperation

To finish our quest.


Then the curious interlude:

Arriving at the palace

Thinking at last our mission complete:

Hoping our goal was in reach.

Eliciting information we needed,

Yet somehow a stench

More pungent than the camels,

Filling not our noses

But our souls.


The last miles

Seemed never-ending;

And, creeping like a fog

Not seen until obscuring vision,

My doubt sneaked in.


But then I saw Him,

And, in simple wonder,

I knelt

And felt the breath of heaven

On my cheek.


Wife of one of the Magi 

I have no appetite

For politics or religion.

The first the refuge

Of the power hungry

The second for the desperate.


I married him

Because I loved him

The rest just came with it

Like an unwelcome guest

Who would not leave

And must be tolerated.


He never talked

About his work

Which suited me fine

I knew my place

The kitchen and bedroom

My domain

But not the altar.


And then he left

On some foolish quest

And my simmering resentment

Burst into energising flame

Planning with every day

Of absence

All that I would say

On his return.

A thousand conversations

In my head

In the waking hours

Of the night.


And then he came home.

And all of them

Were silenced.


This post is part of our reflections on the season of Epiphany.

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