We sang the song…“As with gladness men of old, Did the guiding light behold; As with joy they hailed its light, Leading onward, beaming bright…”*
And I sat there, wondering…
What drew them?
It wasn’t just the knowing, that evidenced the pull. It was the going.
Men in Jerusalem knew, too, yet nothing in the record says they went. Facts were enough for them perhaps? (Mt 2:4-5) Even too much (Mt 2:3)?
But those astronomers…
Three hundred years later Augustine wrote about other “philosophers” of their kind who…
“have discovered much, and predicted eclipses of the sun’s light, or the moon’s, many years in advance, indicating precisely the day, the hour, and the extent of the eclipse and their calculations have been accurate. It has therefore been possible for them to make forecasts and draw up rules from their research. On the basis of these rules, …still studied today, it can be predicted in which year… month… day of the month… at what hour an eclipse will occur, and what proportion of its light the sun or moon will lose.
“And, as forecast, it happens. People think this is wonderful…, while the philosophers strut and make merry. In their impious pride they draw away from You and Your light, because these scholars who foresee a future eclipse of the sun long beforehand fail to see their own in the present, for want of inquiring in a religious spirit from Whom they have received the very intelligence which enables them…
If they discover that You have made them, they do not give themselves to you so that you may preserve what you have made, nor do they slay in your honor those selves of their own making, nor immolate their high-flown pride…”**
Such was not so of those scholars of the star’s rising who followed it to Bethlehem.
What drew them? Why did they go?
What made them choose sand stinging cheeks and blinding eyes, day heat sweltering and night cold biting, weary wasteland and tedious travel, difficult and dangerous? What inspired them to carry gifts that spoke what they “couldn’t know” of the tiny King before whom they’d fall down, bowed low, prideless?
…What drew me?
I reminisced and pondered:
Star-whisper of double promise, vague light beaming into a darkened life: “Come here for the Truth those philosophies lacked.” “Come for the filling of that strange inner chasm of vague craving.”
Augustine’s words speak well of what that whisper caught hold of in me:
“Great are You, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise. Your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we humans, …who carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin, and with it the proof that You thwart the proud, yet… a part of Your creation, [we] long to praise You… You have made us and drawn us to Yourself, and our hearts are rest-less until they find their rest in You.”**
That same Daystar (2 Pet 1:19) that gave the ancient travelers light, that same breath of heaven (John 3:8), that blew sandy wastes and magi hearts, that stirred Augustine’s, also stirred mine, and drew me strong. Could I not have followed?
I only rejoice that I did!
Q4U: What drew you? (Or, is drawing you?)
* William C. Dix, “As with Gladness Men of Old.” **Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 5.4 **Confessions, 1.1