Tag Archives: Wisdom

A first sonnet for Epiphany

these three arrive and bring us with them

The Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the three wise men at the manger in Bethlehem has a special mystery and joy to it. Until now the story of the coming Messiah has been confined to Israel, the covenant people, but here suddenly, mysteriously, are three Gentiles who have intuited that his birth is good new for them too. Here is an Epiphany, a revelation, that the birth of Christ is not  one small step for a local religion but a great leap  for all mankind. I love the way that traditionally the three wise men (or kings) are shown as representing the different races and cultures and languages of the world. I love the combination in their character of diligence and joy. They ‘seek diligently’, but they ‘rejoice with exceeding great joy’! I love the way they loved and followed a star, but didn’t stop at the star, but rather let the star lead them to something beyond itself. Surely that is a pattern for all wise contemplation of nature whether in art or science.

One can return constantly to the mystery of the Epiphany and always find more but here is a little sonnet which particularly focuses on the way their arrival on the scene suddenly includes us as Gentiles into what has been, up to this point an exclusively Jewish story. The last line of this poem is a little nod in the direction of Tennyson’s great poem Ulysses

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or by clicking on the title of the poem which will take you to the audioboo page.


It might have been just someone else’s story,
Some chosen people get a special king.
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A  pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In temples they found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.


Now the Feast of the Epiphany is both the end of Christmas and the beginning of the Church’s Epiphany Season which she keeps until the Feast of the Presentation (or Candlemas), on February 2nd. On the Sundays of this Epiphany season it is traditional to move from the this first great ‘epiphany’ or manifestation of glory to the Gentiles, to contemplate the other ‘epiphanies’ that mark the beginning of Christ’s Ministry; the Heaven’s opening at his baptism, the Calling of his disciples, especially the ‘epiphany moment’ granted to Nathanael, and promised to all of us, and then finally the first of his miracles, his ‘signs whereby he manifested his glory’; the Miracle at Cana in Galilee.

So the Sonnet I have given above is the first in a sequence of  Epiphany Sonnets and I shall post the others in time for the various Sundays of Epiphany. However before we consider these further mysteries of the Epiphany, we have also to contemplate the flight to Egypt, and of how Christ began his life on earth as a child refugee, and that will be the subject of my next sonnet.

The image below is courtesy of Margot Krebs Neal


Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

Maundy Thursday and The April Fool

This year Maundy Thursday falls on April Fool’s Day, a coincidence that seems strangely resonant.

‘What Folly!’, Judas must have thought, as he watched the events of Holy Week unfold; it was foolish enough to have wasted the money wrapped up in that alabaster Jar that Mary broke, folly for Jesus to have provoked a scene at the temple and then withdrawn, failing to follow it through with a proper,  thoroughly planned rebellion, and now on this Thursday, the greatest folly of  all, to waste the chance of bloody insurrection with all this defeatist talk of his own body being broken, his own blood shed. Judas could see that this little movement he had joined with such hope was going nowhere. Its numbers already dwindling and its strangely passive leader was clearly headed for the gallows. What to do? What would be the wise course of action? Best to jump ship first before they all went down, best indeed to put some clear blue waters between himself and this crowd lest he be dragged down with them, best indeed to bring the whole foolish charade to an end as soon as possible. The authorities were bound to pick up this great fool anyway, bound to have informers, ‘If I don’t do it somebody else will”, thought Judas, and slipped out into the night.

So on that Maundy Thursday Judas left the April Fool to his folly, and seemed wise enough looking on from the distance on Friday, but hidden in the folly of the cross was a wisdom Judas had never guessed. ‘unless a greain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it bears no fruit, but if it dies it bears a rich harvest’ Jesus had said, and in utter trust He had made himself the seed of all humanity and cast himself and all of us once and for all into the rich ground of God’s eternal love.

Looking past Good Friday to that first Easter another wise thinker, anotherone who might have been a Judas but became instead a new creation, suddenly saw it all, and said to himself and to us:

“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die”. He suddenly saw that what was sown in corruption is raised in glory, what was sown in weakness was raised in power. And so he wrote the words that should be read on this and every April feast of fools: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

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Filed under christianity, St. Edward's