Friday, December 31, 2010
Star of Wonder
The Magi caught a glimpse of the sublime--a magnificent waterfall of light, pouring from the western sky--and promptly set out across the desert sands to see what it might mean. The world was still enchanted in those days; natural wonders were manifestations of spiritual reality and people retained their inbuilt propensity toward worship. Thus, the three wise men were not seeking a physical explanation for the majestic new star, but instead a theophany: a vision of God. And so they were able to see the Christ child for who he was and fell to their knees in humble adoration.
We've got it harder than the Magi, for we've been enculturated in non-belief. Science has long since disenchanted the universe, and if a star like the star of Bethlehem should suddenly appear in the western sky, we would immediately capture it in the cross-hairs of our most powerful telescopes. Astronomers would vie for the honor of naming it after themselves, cosmologists would work it into their favorite theories, and foundations dedicated to unraveling the mystery of its precipitous arrival would spring up like mushrooms after rain. Meanwhile, the angels would sing on, impossible for us to hear.
In a world like ours, even the most ardent faith pales beside the eager spiritual inquisitiveness of the Magi. Unhampered by the hubris of scientism, secure in the knowledge that the universe was pregnant with meaning, they saddled up their camels to follow a star, wherever it might lead them.