Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Magi

 The Christmas story is constructed to make the birth/appearance of Jesus a fulfilment of Jewish prophecy & connected to ancient  Near East myths.  I'm not hung up on "believing" in the details. Truth doesn't require fact. Fact often obfuscates truth.

In the Advent season, I relate to the Magi. We know hardly anything about them, even their number (three gifts), so they became fanciful projections.  Presumably, they are astrologers, & presumably they are now already  on their journey, not certain of the destination or of what they will find there. But something in the stars so captured their attention & imagination that they undertook an arduous & expensive  trip, likely setting out in advance of Joseph & Mary's own journey.  It turns out that they are men of honor, & remarkably open-minded.

If they are astrologers, then their charts show something very strange & disturbing about what happens to this "king," something difficult to interpret concretely. He will not live a long life, & yet, the charts must be  ambiguous on the matter. They bring this knowledge with them, but they do not reveal it to anyone. What's more, they endanger themselves by concealing what they know from Herod. Their story is better left for Epiphany, but I think of them often during Advent, wondering where they are & what they are discussing along the way.

The Journey of the Magi (fragment), ca. 1435
Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni)
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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