The Epiphany of Our Lord
by Lucinda M. Vardey
It is understandable that the wise men, who had travelled so far on their ancient pilgrimage to give homage to the new born king, would be “overwhelmed with joy” when the star indicated they had arrived. One could speculate the cause of a joy shared among a special group of seekers, who, some say, heralded from Sheba (present-day Yemen). We will never know exactly who they were or where they came from but that isn’t really important. What is worth noting is the effect that Jesus had on them. They were coming laden with gold and spices, but before they dismounted their camels they had received a precious spiritual commodity beyond every material value: joy.
St. Thomas Aquinas posited that the experience of joy is not something that one sets out to seek, it is instead enlivened by encountering “the good which is its object.” Therein we find the gladness in encountering the Christ child we have sung about in our Christmas carols. We encounter “the good,” like the wise men, who looked and saw the hopeful light in the dark sky of that time and were touched by something beyond rational comprehension. They not only saw, but they felt, and their spiritual senses goaded them to act. They had to go, they had to find, and they had to rejoice. And by this encounter they were changed.
They headed back not from where they came but by “another road,” a different route. No longer honouring Herod’s wish (with its ulterior motive) they instead followed the truth as revealed in the dream state. Transformed by the brightness of dawn, they journeyed out as witnesses to an unspeakable event, the mystery, which was, as St. Paul revealed, to be passed on “in the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
Image Credit: Adoration of the Magi, Gentile de Fabriano (1423)