Wisdom of the Magi: The Crown of Wisdom

This is the season of Christmas, and depending on how you view the meaning of the holiday (or, holy day as it originally was meant to be and proclaim), the time can be one of great joy and compassion and exuberance in many levels, or it can be a time of expriencing depression, SAD, and thoughts that bring the person low and into a rut of trying to tune out the bustling and the constant music.

Christmas in America (pronounced in this case, kriss- miss and not CHRIST- mas), has become much more than the holy day that has its foundation over two thousand years ago. These days, “the holidays” begin with Thanksgiving, and stores break out the holiday decorations to excess. It has people thinking, “Gee whiz all ready, it’s barely Thanksgiving and all ready they are putting out Christmas junk.” No telling how many times I have heard that when visiting some of the stores that specialize in home furnishings and other goods for the house, for guests, for cooking and drinking and yard care. Sure, Christmas is a time for being festive and colorful, light and merry, thoughtful, charitable, bustling about the house and kitchen and singing and decorating trees and mantels and the like. But it is also a time to reflect, to sit back and think, to consider the origins of the holy day and the significance that goes far beyond the giving of presents, of pushing about at the malls, of trying hard to find parking spaces and of adding thousands of lights to one’s yard and house.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF KINGS

crown jewels of Serbia, with Karađorđević crown

crown jewels of Serbia, with Karađorđević crown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the most part, those of royal persuasion have some things in common. I have always been fascinated with the idea of rulers and those who have power over peoples and nations; being an Anglophile I have found the British Royal Family a subject of study. I visited England and had the honor to see some of the places and things associated deeply with royalty, such as Buckingham Palace, the White Tower, the Crown Jewels, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the House of Parliament.  Many of the pictures (in painting and in photographic form) show these august people in settings of splendor and elegance. They wear uniforms, robes, crowns, tiaras, gloves, golden jewels, sparkling jewels, and come complete with orb and scepter and rings. The jewels are splendid, full of diamonds and rubies and pearls, sparkling with color in their gold or platinum settings. The people stand in palatial rooms, full of columns and fine furnishings, books and tapestries.Royalty around the world have splendor as a common bond. Japanese imperial families attire themselves in wonderful robes; African kings wear ornaments of gold and garb themselves in precious fabrics, and the old maharajahs of India were indeed magnificently dressed. Speaking to the latter, the exhibit at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago gives a superb insight into the court life of those rulers and their households. But read deeply into what is said about the rulers and you find other facets of them and the lifestyle they were expected to lead, beyond dressing in pounds of gems, heavy robes, fine swords and such outward trappings of authority and displays of wealth. There was more than showing them as supposed descendants of the sun or the gods.

These rulers were people endowed with intellectual and religious pursuits as part of their daily lives. They were supposed to be people of poetry, art and the support of the arts, civil and dignified behavior, patrons of architecture and gardening and hunting. The splendid figures of the maharajahs were people of wisdom, the use of knowledge for, what we might see as ideal purposes, for the improvement of society and culture, for spreading intellectual pursuits and that which is connected to the idea of ruling a civilization.

WE THREE FRIENDS

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Adoration of th...

Biblical kings are described in such ways as well, taking Solomon as an example as he is supposed to be known for wisdom and wealth. Descriptions of his court and his pursuits in the Old Testament give us pictures of an exotic collection of people and material goods and curiosities of the natural world; Solomon’s encounter with the fabulous Queen of Sheba is well known. Now there is the example of Solomon, the example of David, and that also of Saul, but there are the three notables around whom this article revolves, the three “wise men” of the Christmas story’s foundation and signal event.

It would be safe to say that for these three nobles to meet on and take such a journey, a lot of preparation had to go into making it possible. One might speculate that, as their court scientists were ascertaining the time of the star’s appearance and its significance, they were making ready for the journey across the land to Jerusalem. When it was time, then, they set out with their parties, provisions, animals, and the gifts to present to the new king. The lands of these kings surely would be at peace and prosperous as well, for them to have such leisure to make such a journey and bring such precious gifts as gold, frankincense and myrrh. It would not have been diplomatic for a ruler to leave his land if there was war or some other problem that required correction. The wise person would correct the difficulties before taking leisure.

In the meanwhile their households, courtiers gathered around them in daily business, and retainers sewed robes and leggings and shoes for travel, and tended the animals and made the food and drink. The guards drilled and exercised and protected the gates and the palace so business could be properly conducted. These were the behind the scenes folks without whom the journey would not have been possible. The sages studied the records regarding the appearance of the heavenly object.

When at last these men met for their ride across the desert, they appear to have met as friends with a common goal. Paintings show them as three different looking men, not all light or dark, but with a couple of them as light in color and one as very dark, but all with the demeanor of kings. They did not meet to waste time discussing diversity or neighborhoods with their separation -mindedness, or anything else it seems save for accomplishing this mission and how important it was. It did not matter to those traveling with them what color anyone was – those details are not important in the slightest. They wanted to see where this incredible astronomical vision (star, comet, conjunction, supernova, gamma ray burst) would lead and what it meant; they wanted to know what they would find under its rays. They had to go through the obstacle of meeting Herod and his court, but they were warned not to deal with Herod and took another way.

When after this dusty, long, hard, dry journey concluded at the place over which the “star” stopped, the kings lit from their camels, they took their gifts and went in to see what they would find. In that humble place they saw, bathed in divine light and with an atmosphere of royal divinity all around them and the Holy Family, the new king, before whom without hesitation they presented their gifts, the best they had to offer. Paintings of this event are many and wondrous in their color and presentation.

The three friends accomplished their mission.

We can learn a lot from them.

Vincenzo Foppa - The Adoration of the Kings - ...

Vincenzo Foppa – The Adoration of the Kings – WGA7999 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divi Logan, Nashville and Chicago, ©2012.

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