by Artist Eye
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
I love the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Journey of the Magi.” Eliot adapted these lines from a sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes on Christmas Day in 1622. The English prelate was preaching on the verses of Matthew’s Gospel which report the inquiry made by the Wise Men from the East: “Where is He who is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship Him.” Andrewes was exhorting his listeners to emulate the Wise Men’s example: “Their errand our errand, and the errand of this day.” He goes on to describe the Wise Men’s faith and the extremity of the journey which that faith prompted them to make: “This was nothing pleasant. . . .This was no summer progress. . . .” I love to read Eliot’s poem in Advent. The poem’s imagery gives me the feeling of the journey in my bones which seems entirely appropriate to the season and the work of getting ready interiorly.
The other day when I heard about the work going on to make a new life size Creche for our front lawn I thought again about the Wise Men’s journey. It turns out we will have to wait another year for their appearance in our Creche ( ‘such a long journey’ ) but in the meanwhile, the Brothers have been hard at work, loving crafting the other figures; each one full of grace and elaborate detail. A joyous cast of shepherds and the sheep will lend us their examples as they rush across the lawn to fall and worship at the Crib; exhorting us to come and do like wise.