‘God loves infinitely an infinite goodness; the Son loves it in the Father whence it comes, the Father loves it in the Son in whom he places it, and upon whom he pours it out: “This is my Son, my only beloved, in whom I am well-pleased”.
The Father’s unqualified delight, his outpouring of his Holy Spirit, comes down with Christ from heaven to earth.
When St John came to write the story of Christ’s baptism, he connected it with Jacob’s dream of the ladder from heaven to earth, on which the angels of God ascended and descended (John 1:32, 51; Genesis 28:12). And certainly the baptism has so many levels of meaning in it, that without ever going outside it we can run up as though by steps from earth to heaven and down again. At the height of it is the bliss of the Trinity above all worlds, in the midst is the sonship of Jesus to his heavenly Father; at the foot of it (and here it touches us) is the baptism of any Christian.
We cannot be baptised without being baptised into his baptism: and the unity we have with him both in receiving baptism and afterwards in standing by it, brings down on us the very blessing and the very Spirit he received. In so far as we are in Christ, we are filled with the Holy Ghost, and the Father’s good pleasure rests upon us; infinite Love delights in us’.
Austin Farrer FBA, 1904-1968
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ did take our nature upon him,
and was baptised for our sakes in the river Jordan: mercifully grant that we, being regenerate
and made thy children by adoption and grace, may also be partakers of thy Holy Spirit;
through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Divine Worship: The Missal
‘The journey of the Magi gives us a mystical interpretation of the life of prayer. The Magi are represented to us as oriental sovereigns, who had everything that could satisfy their senses. Their first condition may represent the life which seeks to find satisfaction in material things. It is the witness of the soul, and of these wandering Wise Men, that we cannot be satisfied with the life of the senses. Hence that urge which the Wise Men felt to leave their comfortable life, their glittering courts, and go out they knew not where, following a beckoning which they felt certain called them – without, by the following of a star; within, by some spiritual hunger.
That urge is something which we all know. We cannot rest in the material; we must seek the spiritual. Sometimes we get tired, and perhaps we give up the quest for a while and try to settle down into material things, but we cannot do it. God is Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, because we ourselves, created in His image, are spiritual beings’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Saw you never in the twilight,
When the sun had left the skies,
Up in heaven the clear stars shining,
Through the gloom like silver eyes?
So of old the wise men watching,
Saw a little stranger star,
And they knew the King was given,
And they follow’d it from far.
Heard you never of the story,
How they cross’d the desert wild,
Journey’d on by plain and mountain,
Till they found the Holy Child?
How they open’d all their treasure,
Kneeling to that Infant King,
Gave the gold and fragrant incense,
Gave the myrrh in offering?
Know ye not that lowly Baby
Was the bright and morning star,
He who came to light the Gentiles,
And the darken’d isles afar?
And we too may seek His cradle,
There our heart’s best treasures bring,
Love, and Faith, and true devotion,
For our Saviour, God, and King.
Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818-1895
‘These that came from the East were Gentiles, and that concerns us, for so are we. We may then look out, if we can see this star. It is ours, it is the Gentiles’ star. We may set our course by it, to seek and find, and worship him as well as they. So we come in, for “God hath also to the Gentiles set open a door of faith”, and that he would do this, and call us in, there was some small star-light from the beginning. This he promised by the patriarchs, shadowed forth in the figures of the Law, the Temple and the Tabernacle, the Prophets and the Psalms, and it is this day fulfilled. These wise men are come who not only in their own names but in ours make here their entry; came and sought after, and found and worshipped, their Saviour and ours, the Saviour of the whole world. A little wicket there was left open before, whereat divers Gentiles did come in; now the great gate set wide opens this day for all – for these here with their camels and dromedaries to enter and all their carriage. Christ is not only for russet cloaks, shepherds and such; but even grandees, great states such as these came, and when they came they were welcome to him – for they were sent for and invited by this star, their star properly.
They came a long journey, and they came an uneasy journey; they came a dangerous journey and they came now, at the worst season of the year. They stayed not their coming till the opening of the year, till they might have better weather and way, and have longer days and so more seasonable and fit to travel in. So desirous were they to come with the first, and to be there as soon as they possibly might; broke through all these difficulties, and behold, come they did.
And we, what excuse shall we have if we come not? If so short and easy a way we come not, as from our chambers hither? And these wise men were never a whit less wise for so coming; nay, to come to Christ is one of the wisest parts that ever these wise men did. And if they and we be wise in one Spirit, we will follow the same star, tread the same way, and so come at last wither they are happily gone before us.
And how shall we do that? In the old ritual of the church we find that on the cover of the canister wherein was the sacrament of His body, there was a star engraven, to shew us that now the star leads us thither, to His body there. So what shall I say now, but according as St John saith, and the star, and the wise men say “Come” and let whosoever will take of the Bread of life which came down from heaven to Bethlehem, the house of bread. Of which Bread the Church is this day the house, the true Bethlehem, and all the Bethlehem we have now left to come to for the Bread of Life – of that life which we hope for in heaven. And this our nearest coming that here we can come, till we shall by another coming ‘Come’ unto him in his heavenly kingdom. To which He grant we may come, that came to us in earth that we thereby might come to him and remain with him forever, Jesus Christ the Righteous’.
from a sermon preached on Christmas Day 1620 by Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1626, Bishop of Winchester (1619-1626)
Kings should offer gold, rich, royal men –
And I am poor and no red gold have I;
Must I stay in the cold, sad shadows then,
While kings in light spread splendours splendidly?
Saints should offer incense, holy men –
My shabby soul is soiled and stained with sin;
Must I wait, shut without the stable then,
While saints join kings to offer gifts within?
Lo, I am not alone, but round me here
In the wan shadows, waiting wistfully
With nothing else to bring but only myrrh,
Stands silent, shy, a grey-clad company.
’Tis well for us, we of the common crowd,
That we may bring sad symbollings of myrrh,
Where God lies sleeping ’neath a stable shroud
Of common straw, and leave our offerings there.
We will be glad the incense makes a veil
To hide us somewhat, and the saint’s pure prayer
Goes with the golden gifts where we must fail;
Yet we will dare to bring our meed of myrrh.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!
‘You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!
‘Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room before the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life, there was room for you, too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.
‘You are my especial patrons, and patrons of all latecomers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.
…‘For his sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be forgotten at the throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom’.
Saint Helena reflecting on the Magi in the novel ‘Helena’, 1950, by Evelyn Waugh, 1903-1966
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy Only Begotten Son to the Gentiles:
mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may be led onward through this earthly life,
until we see the vision of thy heavenly glory; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Divine Worship: The Missal
Fr Lee Kenyon
Priest, Husband, Father, Lancastrian, Mancunian