Reflection - The Magi

St Matthew reminds us at the end of the Magi story that they “returned to their own country by another route...” (Matt 2:12).

It was a journey of transformation for the three stargazers. Having drawn near to the sacred, they were awakened to the mystery of their lives. They are now transformed by the experience of the Christ Child in the manger and ready to live in a new and reflective way.

Just as the Easter liturgy invites us to ask Mary Magdalene, “Tell us Mary, what have you seen along the way?” so the Christmas and Epiphany liturgies invite us to grasp the significance of the transcendental experience of our travellers from the East. Like Mary they could each reply, “I have seen the Lord!”

Having been awakened to the mystery of their lives, touched and nourished by the energy of the divine, the Magi return home ready to face the routine of life with new hope and purpose.

Like the Magi, we, too, are led to Jesus. We are invited to come close to the borders of mystery, to search for God in the stable of our hearts.

In Fr Karl Rahner’s words, ‘we are encompassed absolutely by God at the moment of our search as we journey through life by the light of the star.’ Insights from occasional moments of deep prayer, from reading the scriptures, our sensitivity to listening to the pain of a friend, may be for us the star or the brilliant flash of light that leads us to the Child and his mother.  

We discover that the real journey isn’t to Bethlehem or to the stable but into our hearts - a journey which is largely shaped by our own experiences. Prayer and meditation enable us to integrate all our experiences into our inner centre, or to partially or completely revise them.

As Meister Eckhart reminds us, we may on occasion experience the brightness of the star as much ‘by the fireside or in the stable’ as we do by devotions, ecstasies and contemplation.

Matthew’s reflection on the visit of the Magi invites us to travel “by another route” (2:12). It also invites us to support those who are searching for God in the humility of a fragile baby and who wish to travel home, transformed. This reflection takes us to a new place. Where that new place is and how God is leading us there, can emerge in our prayer, in our commitment and in our sharing of insights to enrich the community.

The star that shines over our personal mangers prepares us to welcome the Light of the World and to deepen our commitment to mission and mystery. The mystical experience of finding Jesus and of being completely encompassed by God must flow into our personal prayer, liturgies, homes and ministry, so that the mystery of God will spill over into our lives, our world and into history.

Sr Kathleen Coyle, a Columban Sister, has taught theology in the East Asian Pastoral Institute in the Philippines. She now resides in Ireland.

Read more from The Far East, November/December 2011