Unique Trailblazers   

Source: Flickr

The word trailblazer immediately conjures up images of people who are admired for their vision, courage, and determination to reach their goal. Among a long list is Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator who flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Then there is Jane Goodall, an English primatologist and anthropologist, who is considered the world’s expert on chimpanzees.

Reflecting on the Old Testament’s trailblazers, Ruth shines forth as one who left her people to follow Naomi to Bethlehem, and faced trials with great calm.

Undoubtedly, the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel can be considered the New Testament trailblazers. They followed a star in search of the Christ Child, and at the end of their very long journey, they discovered God. These “wise men from the East” occupy just 12 verses in Matthew’s Gospel, yet they are a vital part of every Nativity scene.

As a child, I fondly remember helping to set up the crib at the entrance of our home before Christmas. The three “kings” were placed at a distance, and inched forward as the Christmas season rolled along, till the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th.

Later on, I discovered that nowhere in Scripture does it say that the magi were kings. Perhaps that came about because of Christians reflecting on Psalm 72: 10-11 “The king of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” Or maybe the Christmas carol that we sing with great gusto, We Three Kings of Orient Are, has influenced our thinking. The gifts they brought, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were after all, fit to honor a king.

The magi, astrologers, part of a star gazing culture in Babylon/Persia were dedicated to discern the will of God. They captured the imagination of T.S. Eliot, who in his three-stanza poem “The Journey of the Magi” vividly describes the difficult path they traveled to encounter the Christ child – freezing weather, limited food and shelter, rejection from every town, and suffering camels. To them, “this was all folly.” Their meeting was just “satisfactory,” but it was only on their return, that they discovered that they were “no longer at ease.” They had changed, because they had seen the true God.

We are spiritual seekers, and God can be found by those who search for him. The magi, magoi an ancient Greek word, were pilgrim non-Jewish believers, “the first fruit of the Gentiles” according to St. Augustine. Artists, way back at the beginning of the second century, already depicted the adoration of the magi in the Roman catacombs. Christmas cards often have pictures of the magi sitting on camels, walking through desert landscape, but always following a star. The three mysterious figures are in a sense, role models for our own inner journey to God.

God’s guidance, that’s what the magi needed. Their quest led them to King Herod in Jerusalem enquiring, “Where is the new born king of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:2) Interestingly, once these astrologers received Israelite revelation, that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, they met him “in straw poverty,” as Bishop Barron said.

These wise men are to be admired, because they began a journey that took them over rugged terrain, yet they persevered on their adventure into the unknown. The puzzling star beckoned, and they followed. Their example challenges us to get out of our comfort zone, and be willing to answer God’s call wherever that may lead us.

When the magi discovered the Messiah, they dropped to their knees in adoration. Unlike the simple, humble shepherds of Luke’s Gospel, these were learned men whose joy overflowed, when recognizing God in the tiny baby lying in a manger. St. Bernard of Clairvaux says it best, “They fall on their faces, they revere him as king, they worship him as God. He who led them has instructed them too. He who urged them on by means of the star has himself taught them in their inmost heart.”

How amazing it is, that the magi depicted in art as dressed in Persian fashion – caps, trousers, and belted tunics with long sleeves, blazed a trail to Jesus, the light of the world.

So, we sing with enthusiasm, “O star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to the perfect Light.”

Viola Athaide, a student of Theology, is actively involved in parish life, leading Bible courses, the Prayer Group, and the Ministry with Maturing Adults.

  • Marian Taylor
    Posted at 01:48h, 03 January Reply

    Wonderful articles by Viola Athaide – thought- provoking and reflective.

  • suzanne renaud
    Posted at 10:44h, 03 January Reply

    Thank you Viola … beautifully written!

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 14:23h, 03 January Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Maria Chrysant Susanto
    Posted at 14:51h, 03 January Reply

    Thanks Viola, beautifully written. When we see no light Oh Lord , guide us to the perfect light

  • Carol Von Zuben
    Posted at 17:13h, 03 January Reply

    Viola, my knowledge and understanding of this magnificent feast ,has been greatly enriched , thanks to you . You are certainly someone I know, who is so generous in sharing your gifts with everyone whom you encounter. Happy New Year to you and your family.

  • Mario Coutinho
    Posted at 17:43h, 03 January Reply

    As usual simple heartwarming and comforting.
    Thank you Viola.
    Mario and Olivia

  • Linda Rego
    Posted at 18:28h, 03 January Reply

    Thank you Viola. One reflection I heard today was that these were men of commerce, who knew the current supply system very well. Perhaps they were men who were consultants in the business world of their times. Wise men, indeed. The gifts they brought were the most desired commodities from their respective lands; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Your reflection is spot on.

  • Jacqui Hubbard
    Posted at 19:29h, 03 January Reply

    As always you bring the scripture to life for your readers. I have a newfound understanding and appreciation of the Maji.
    God bless you for sharing your unique talents.
    Have a blessed New Year.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 22:12h, 03 January Reply

    Thank you, Viola for your inspiration.

    The Magi, the three wise men are truly the guiding light in our faith, leading us to follow God’s will in our lives.

    Happy New Year to you and your family !

  • Heather deSouza
    Posted at 22:42h, 03 January Reply

    Thank you Viola. Your articles are always insightful and thought provoking.

  • Catherine Schwan
    Posted at 08:37h, 04 January Reply

    Beautifully written Viola! Thank you!

  • Lillian M Phelan
    Posted at 11:11h, 04 January Reply

    Thank you Viola, for another insight into those who never gave up to pursue the ‘more’ and never gave up. Many blessings to you in 2022.

  • Christine Domingo
    Posted at 12:57h, 04 January Reply

    Thank you, Viola, for your profound & beautifully written article on the Magi and their perseverance, despite the odds, in following the “guiding light” in search of the “perfect light”.

  • Teresa Correia
    Posted at 17:59h, 04 January Reply

    Love it..Thank you Viola

  • Susana P Que
    Posted at 20:23h, 05 January Reply

    As always, I am learning, and have been in awe of how you share beautiful reflections on topics that you choose, clearly inspired by your deep communication with our Lord. I thank God for giving you such talent. God bless you always Viola.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 19:49h, 07 January Reply

    Most instructive, Viola. Thank you.

Post A Comment

Subscribe to igNation

Subscribe to receive our latest articles delivered right to your inbox!