December 2002When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; Matt 2:10

Magi of the Ordinary

Abgarus, the oldest and the one who loved Artaban best, lingered after the others had gone. "It is better to follow even the shadow of the best," he said, "than to remain content with where you are. Those who would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel alone." "I am too old for this journey," he continued, "but my heart shall be a companion of your pilgrimage day and night, and I shall know the end of your quest. Go in peace."*

Every once in awhile, but quite often at Christmas, we come across a story that engages the heart and makes a fire burn within the soul. Artaban was the "Other Magi." Having studied the stars, he sold his possessions and bought three jewels (a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl,) to give to the Child announced by the star. The plan was to meet three other astrologers. On the way, however, prompted by charity, Artaban gave away two of the jewels and missed meeting his friends as a result.

Thirty-three years later, his journey ended in Jerusalem at Passover time. The Child Artaban had been seeking was now dying. Artaban was somewhat consoled by the thought that at least he had the pearl left. It was not too late. But before he had a chance to present his gift, a struggling and helpless girl lay at his feet, pleading for help. "Is not love the light of the soul?" Artaban said to himself. With that, he gave his last jewel to the girl.

Just then, there was an earthquake. A heavy tile loosened from the roof and struck the now aged Artaban in the temple. He lay with his head resting on the girl. Looking down, the girl feared he was dying. Both heard words, faintly but clearly, coming through the twilight from above. The young maid saw the old man's lips move in response. "Three and thirty years have I looked for you," she heard him whisper. "But, I have never seen your face or ministered to you." The faint and gentle words from above came again. Artaban listened. The expression on his face changed. He knew his treasures were accepted. He had done well. His journey was over. All along the way, he had seen the One he was seeking.

In reading this, it occurred to me that many of us are that "Other Magi." We search for a God, to whom we can give a gift that seems so small, a gift we have sold other precious things to purchase. Day after day, we do the task before us, always striving to do the best we can, hoping that what we leave this world will be worthwhile. Without thinking deeply about it, we often give away our treasures along the way, sometimes even the last remnant. Still, upon reflection, it would appear that all we need to do is to keep following the faint glow of a star in the distance that has been put there just for us, together with the seemingly small wisdom the glow imparts. Is any wisdom too small? (That star is also inside of us.) At any rate, giving away the last remnant is often the greatest gift.

Like Artaban, if we were honest in looking back, we would hear ourselves saying that we would do the same thing again, were we to re-make that journey. Also, if our own seemingly ordinary life stories were to be recounted by another, very likely, they would turn out to be very beautiful narratives and a source of inspiration for many people.

*Henry Van Dyke, The Story of the Other Wise Man,

Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

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