This year, the Epiphany illuminated something new for me in how I consider the story of the Magi. So I didn’t dissect it piece by piece to ascertain exactly how it might have unfolded. I didn’t consider the issues around timing, or how exactly the star brought them precisely to the manger’s location. Instead, I experienced it as a metaphor; a metaphor about the power of an open heart and the accompanying willingness to seek for truth.
The Magi were in all ways outsiders. They were astrologers who studied what we might well view as magic these days. They were not grounded in the religious scriptures of the day, nor were they religiously prepared for the concept of a messiah. And yet, it is these three men who traveled from distant lands and followed a star to see what it had to reveal to them. Clearly, they represent all of the “them” we see as “us”. Certainly, this is what is most significant to ponder in heart and mind.
Herod heard the news and started figuring out how best he might preserve his power leading to the slaughter of innocents. And the religious leaders and institutions of the day, the learned ones, seemed to have closed hearts and minds. Closed by the idea that they held the absolute truth. Closed by years of holding authority and the habits of not listening to others. And perhaps most frightening, closed in ways that led to collusion with Herod’s self-serving preservation of the status quo.
The deep significance of this for me is the chilling reminder that preparation is no guarantee that I will be ready; in fact, preparation might blind me if I prepare too much according to my own ideas. The ideas informed by my feelings, attitudes, biases, values, and assumptions. I must remain sensitive and aware that these ideas flow out of my strengths and my limitations. I must learn from the Magi who followed a star that there is no substitute for listening with an open heart.
“This is the leap of faith and trust that I and others must make in order to communicate even a bit of the Great Truth to which we each have our own limited access. Spirituality is whatever it takes to keep your heart space open.” Rohr