I fail to follow the Star over Bethlehem. I fail every time I fall prey to my personal monsters - arrogance, anxiety and anger. It seems that I have had a lifetime Triple A membership. This morning's Mass of the Feast of the Epiphany was another whack to the back of my ten cent head.
The Epiphany was once almost as important in Christian devotions as the Birth of Christ. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, Magi witnessed the rise of new star signalling the birth of a Redeemer of Man in Bethlehem of Judea. These wise men or astrologers, or kings followed the star with unquestioning devotion - taking the long journeys from their homelands. Traditionally the Magi represent all the people of earth - Asian, African and Caucasian.
A wise man with whom I have the honor of knowing, Max Weismann -Director of the Center for the Study of Great Ideas - is dedicated to the study of how man can lead a happy life. The Greeks called happiness Eudaimonia (evðaimoˈnia pronounced FEW-Day Monia). Roughly translated the word is a composite for "Spirit of Well Being." Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics that leading a happy life is not merely the pursuit of pleasure but in 'living well' - according to arete - or virtue. Doing anything well requires virtue or a tough minded application of our skills and abilities to make something useful and beautiful. It takes concentration and tireless effort to become an athlete, an artist, or a parent. Nothing springs from the head of Jove.
The Greeks it seems to me are the Head of Mankind - the Intellect.
The Jews are the Heart and Soul of Man. It was the Jews who recognized that the power of God lies not in might but in forgiveness, charity and humility.
The Romans made use of everything and everyone that they conquered and offered systematic application of all that was good, lasting and worthwhile. The Romans are the Hands of Man - the great manipulators and architects of Faith, State, and Taste.
Together, civilization offers us a means by which to follow the Star of Faith with Head, Heart and Hands. One or two is not enough. The Epiphany brings three wise men together in an act of recognition, humility and fortitude. They recognized the right path, allowed the Star to guide them without questioning its place in the heavens, and ventured into a journey fraught with perils and uncertainty.
The Epiphany has come to mean an awareness of something that was once hidden. The Star of Faith is not hidden - it is merely clouded by my submission to arrogance, anxiety and anger.
I pray that God helps me allow my membership in Triple A to lapse - permanently.