By Denise Trull
The Wise Men are nearing the end of their journey as I write this. And like any long and difficult quest, this would be about the time when doubt might have set in. Where weariness and cold dew seeped into their robes each morning, and their bodies, no longer young, ached from too much time in the saddle. This would be the leg of the journey where furtive glances might have been exchanged, silently questioning: Have we made a mistake? Were we too eager with our aching dreams of a great and mighty King who would explain our restless hearts to us? Were we wrong in our calculations?
You'd think the choir of Christmas angels would have mercifully appeared to the Magi at this moment of weary longing. After all, they were kings. Yet, all they received was the light of a star that sometimes went behind clouds, sometimes seemed to slow to a halt. There was no wide, magnificent miracle for them as there was for the shepherds. They certainly could have turned back, but they did not. Their longing for Him endured. It seems as if God had deigned that the Magi take the long, ordinary way to Him through their wealth, their knowledge, their work as astronomers. This is the patient way. He trusted they would take it, and take it they did.
Each was sensitive to rumors of something great and other worldly suddenly revealing itself in their daily calculations. Perhaps their scientist friends too were puzzled by heavenly goings on and talked to them about it through many a night. Perhaps they were in a dulled funk, and suddenly wealth and silks and beautiful things were not as satisfying as they used to be. All that they had and possessed seemed to be whispering: oh, there is so much more than this. Rumors of a Godhead. Rumors of something so beautiful and sacred, they could not even guess how beautiful. And so they decided to follow that feeling in each of their hearts and they got up and went into the unknown.
They followed something quite familiar to them: the path of a star. They watched more closely now, looking for the wonder and mystery in a life that perhaps had become ho hum. They began, as Simone Weil puts it so wonderfully, "the powerful habit of attention," They found the extraordinary through attending closely to the ordinary and it beckoned them on a journey.
We are all very much like them. God speaks to us through the things we love, the things we do each day. If we listen carefully those things seem to whisper: Not me, but the Christ who made me. It's not the poetry, or this person or that person that we love so much. It's not our books, our jobs, our own wills, our recipes, our travels, nor our fame that we desire. We experience that restless, exasperating feeling of "I want something, but I don't know what.” And suddenly we realize that we are not seeking some thing but Someone. That’s when we first see the star and seek to follow. Sometimes it's a long journey trying to understand what God is whispering through our ordinary lives lived with grace. We lose him behind the clouds of doubt so often. We might even be at that part in our journey where we do not wish to go on; we are so tired.
But the most beautiful thing about the Wise Men is this: there were three. Not just one. They did not seek alone. When one felt tired and footsore, another said, “Up, brother, up!” And when one’s map seemed all wrong, the other’s map contained the missing truth. They had each other. They did not search alone, and onward they went. Together. Brave. Persistent. Grateful for one another’s company.
What beautiful saints to pray to when we have lost our way, when we just cannot see the star. The Three Kings are the original communion of saints. They show us in a very profound way, that we need each other on the journey. That we should be grateful for another’s hope when we have none. That our own faith may help a doubting brother up off the ground. That our kindness may blow the clouds of sadness away for a fellow pilgrim. Together we keep our eyes on the Heavens and point out the star to one another that leads to Him. Up, brother, up! Soon now, my sisters! And if we persevere? We get to hold a baby in the end: this marvelous, rumored, Beautiful Child shining in the splendor of a star that rests upon Him at journey’s end.
Denise Trull is the editor in chief of Sostenuto, an online journal for writers and thinkers of every kind to share their work with each other. Her own writing is also featured regularly at Theology of Home, and has appeared in Dappled Things. She also can be found at her Substack, The Inscapist. Denise is the mother of seven grown, adventurous children and has acquired the illustrious title of grandmother. She lives with her husband Tony in St. Louis, Missouri.