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The Magi are men who inquire into the nature of things philosophically…
Rabanus

There are few stories like that of three men who mysteriously appear from the ‘east’ and then disappear again in the mist of history. As a philosopher I take them as patron.

In philosophy, as in life itself, we are intent on reaching things that often seem just out of reach. I love to ponder what was going through the minds of the Magi: earlier in their life, then when they saw the star, and then throughout what must have been anything but a smooth journey. The whole story is ripe for using our imagination and meditating on its various aspects.

I have been thinking about the end of 2020 and the beginning of a new year. It is fascinating how the cycles of the heavenly bodies are precisely what provide a natural rhythm to the passage of time. What otherwise would surely be crushing in its monotony becomes wonderfully cyclical, offering us the gift of new beginnings and the return of beloved seasons.

Entering a new year seems the perfect time to reflect on the magi. They, like all real seekers of wisdom, had seen something beautiful and powerful. And they knew that there was more to discover behind it. Reality has an astounding matrix of signs: this points to that, which points to that. There is more to be discovered; and it seems to want to be discovered.

Am I willing to make a journey? Perhaps more to the point, am I willing to endure the long wait? Am I willing to find that things are different, and perhaps even more challenging than I realized?

The political situation in Judea was a mess. So it is for us. But the heads of three wise men were not turned. They knew what they were about. Our journey too might seem to be relentless, without respite. Yet while it might go on and on, of this much we can be sure: it is not end-less. There is an end that gives it all meaning—-indeed, every single step of the way.

Rabanus (780-856) Frankish monk, theologian, and poet. He is one of the fathers quoted in Thomas’s Aquinas’s Golden Chain of commentary on scripture.

Photo: a bright star over the horizon this morning on the Blue Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley outside my window. I believe the star is actually Venus.

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