Saturday, January 4, 2014

Devotional 1-2-14

An Epiphany

Scripture Reading – Please read Matthew 2: 1-12.

12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Magi had had an epiphany.

In 1927, a year after converting to Anglicanism, T.S. Eliot also had an epiphany about the Epiphany. In “Journey of the Magi” Eliot tells the story from the perspective of one of the Magi. The Magus describes his trip while he showers us with allusions meant to test our biblical knowledge.  See how many you can find.

 'A cold coming we had of it,                                                                                
 Just the worst time of the year                                                              
 For a journey, and such a long journey:
 The ways deep and the weather sharp,
 The very dead of winter.'
 And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,                                            
     (galled – irritated    refractory - stubborn)
 Lying down in the melting snow.
 There were times we regretted
 The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,                                  
 And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
 Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
 And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,          
 And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,              
 And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly                                            
 And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
 A hard time we had of it.
 At the end we preferred to travel all night,
 Sleeping in snatches,
 With the voices singing in our ears, saying
 That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
 Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
 With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
 And three trees on the low sky,
 And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
 Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
 Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
 And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
 But there was no information, and so we continued
 And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
 Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

 All this was a long time ago, I remember,
 And I would do it again, but set down
 This set down
 This: were we led all that way for
 Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
 We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
 But had thought they were different: this Birth was
 Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
 We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
 But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,                    
       (dispensation – system)
 With an alien people clutching their gods.
 I should be glad of another death.

What happened when the Magus went home? Was he able to recapture what he had felt when he was face to face with the Christ Child? Did he try to tell family members of his experience, only to be ridiculed for traveling so far to see a mere boy? Was he able to reconcile his belief in a poor Jewish boy with his feelings about the belief system that had thus far guided his life?  And in the last line, about whose death was he speaking? Zoroastrianism’s? His own? Jesus’? All of the above?

We have so many questions about the birth of Christ, the effect it had on the world, and what it means for our world in 2014. I hope and pray that Eliot’s description of this spiritual journey will enhance yours.

Prayer: Dear God, we have so many questions! As we start a new year, let us remember that the answer to all of them is You.  Amen

*For more information about this poem, see this website:

Becky Warren

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