My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and see the presence of God?
The Magi are still on the far side of the shelf, separated from the creche by a blooming Christmas cactus and a tumble of ivy.
When I was young, living in a small rural town, the Magi were my favorite characters in the Nativity. Colorfully attired, riding exotic animals — living in a large family amid dairy farms, babies, mangers and cows were no mystery to me — they seemed ambassadors from a world as far beyond my reach as the stars.
I imagined what it might be like to peep over the pasture fence and see the flowing silks, the camels, and hear elephants trumpet. Would I follow them to see where they were going? Or return to my chores — all unaware of Epiphany passing me by?
Four decades later, these wise ones from the east still capture my imagination, though now I see them as companions, fellow scientists, intently reading what St. Anthony the Great called “God’s other book,” the universe.
Looking for concrete signs in the created world that pointed them toward the presence of God, the Magi were firmly grounded in the practical. Measuring, calculating, and predicting. Methodically proceeding onward. Yet they burned with a desire to get ever closer to God, a thirst that drove them to travel who-knows-how-far to throw themselves face down in the dust before the Word that set the universe in motion.
In a recent reflection on the Epiphany posted to the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s blog, priest and amateur astronomer James Kruzynski urges us to reflect on our own journey to the holy. Are we magi, seeking God in what is around us, in the tangible fabric of the universe? Are we shepherds, responding to intangible calls, listening for God in our inmost being?
His reflection made me think not only about the myriad paths along which I pursue God, but reminded me God is simultaneously pursuing me, continually revealing himself to us all in what we can see and touch, and in what we cannot. Aware or unaware, God makes himself known to us.
Magus or shepherd, scientist or mother, the Epiphany reminds me that no matter if I plumb the universe’s depths with quantum mechanics, or head to the basement to throw in another load of laundry, God is there. The living God, for whom I thirst. The living God, who seeks me out.
To read: Father James Kruzynski, “Epiphany: How All of Creation Points to Our Source and Summit”
To listen: Conditor alme siderum, “Creator of the Stars of Night,” a traditional hymn in a modern setting, and in the traditional monastic version.
Michelle Francl-Donnay is a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Bryn Mawr.
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