The Journey of the Magi
Well, the Christmas season officially comes to a close this Wednesday, January 6, the 12th Day of Christmas, which is also known as the Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings. It's the day in which we celebrate the Magi of seeing the Star of Wonder in the night sky, and allowing it to guide them to the location of the Christ.
Last week on December 21, the Winter Solstice, observers from around the world witnessed another extraordinary event in the night sky. The two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, aligned to create what some have called the Christmas Star, a rare event that hasn't been seen since the Middle Ages, the Magi may have experienced something similar to the Christmas Star on that very first day of Epiphany.
The word Epiphany comes from a Greek word, meaning "to reveal." When we experience epiphanies in our lives, the divine is revealing itself to us in new and powerful ways. As we heard, in our Words of Integration and Guidance today, the Epiphany story from the Bible is a highly symbolic one, which means it's not just about the Magi, or the baby Jesus.
It's about us.
The Epiphany story is our story. It's about allowing ourselves, like the Magi, to be guided by that perfect light. Now, the Epiphany story from the Bible, which I just read for you today, is only told to us in Matthew's Gospel, so we don't really know a lot about who the Magi actually were.
The writer of Matthew's Gospel simply refers to them as "wise men from the East." Notice, he doesn't say that there were three of them. And he doesn't say that they were kings. I think the famous Christmas Carol, We Three Kings popularized this idea, but it's nowhere to be found in Scripture.
The writer of Matthew's Gospel, refer to them as "wise men," meaning they were men who possessed wisdom. Now, I've told you before, wisdom is very different from knowledge. People who possess knowledge, know a lot of facts. But people who possess wisdom, possess a deeper level of spiritual knowing, a deep intuition. The wise men were called Magi. That's where we get our word magic from. But these wise men weren't magicians as we understand them today. Magicians today are all about sleight of hand and illusion, trying to trick us and fool us.
But the original source of the word magical was more in line with the word mystical. mystics are people who are in trying to fool us with illusion, but who are trying to reveal to us the truth of our being. The Magi in today's Gospel story were truth-tellers, or seers, they may have been astrologers or shamans or clairvoyants. They had a special gift of vision. They could read the stars, they could see into the spiritual realm. And one of the things I love so much about the Epiphany story is that the Magi were from the East.
They were foreigners. They were from different cultures, different religions. They were from the eastern religious traditions. And yet they were the very first people in all the world to recognize the Light of the Christ. What this means for me is that the Light has come for everyone, not just for Christians, but for all people. What the Feast of the Epiphany asks of us, is to recognize that the Light of the World was not only born in the baby more than 2,000 years ago, but is alive in each and every one of us today.
Right here, and right now.
That's why the Epiphany is all about the discovery of the Light within us. All of us are wise men and women. People who love vision and intuition. When we seek the Light within and allow ourselves to be guided by it, and transformed by it. That's why the Magi I bring gifts of transformation with them: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I've talked with you before about alchemy, about how base metals exposed to fire are transformed into gold. Gold represents transformation. And Frankincense is an incense, which our Eastern brothers and sisters use in meditation and prayer, to open up the senses to the spiritual realm. And myrrh is a tree resin used as a balm for healing.
These gifts represent transformation and healing. When you, like the Magi, seek out the light within and allow yourselves to be guided by it, you too, will receive the gifts of transformation and healing.
Now there's one more person from today's Gospel that I haven't talked about yet. And that's King Herod. King Herod, the political leader, wanted to destroy the Light. Herod represents our ego. Herod was a man so full of ego, known for trying to impress the people of his day with grandiose buildings and wealth. The discovery of the Christ is a threat to his power. So he commands the Magi to find the location, so that he can destroy the Light. But notice, once the Magi discovered the Christ, they no longer follow the commands of King Herod anymore. Instead, we hear, they returned by another road.
My friends, when we discover the Christ Light within us, we stop listening to the voice and commands of the ego. Rather, we take another road, and we follow the way of the Spirit.
So on this Epiphany Sunday, let us not just remember the Magi, but let us dedicate ourselves to becoming the Magi Like them, may we keep our focus on the Star of Wonder and allow ourselves to be guided by its perfect light of vision, intuition, and wisdom, the gifts of healing and transformation that are with us and within us.
And like the Magi, let us keep watch this new year for all the many epiphanies, great and small, that God has in store for us in 2021.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
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