Reflections for

Epiphany of the Lord, Jan 06, 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

On Art

Adoration of the Magi, by Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510)

The adoration of the Magi was one of the most popular subjects in 15th-century Florence because of the active membership of the Company of the Magi, a lay confraternity whose responsibilities included planning the Feast of the Magi. The Feast was observed on Epiphany (January 6) and celebrated the story of the arrival of the gentile wise men who traveled to pay homage to the Christ Child (Matt. 2). Sandro Botticelli painted the subject at least seven times. The Medici family were members of the Company and were frequently painted as the three Magi. In this version (c. 1475), Cosimo de’ Medici is the oldest Magus, who kneels before Christ. He is covering the child’s feet with a veil to echo the actions of a priest during the benediction of the sacrament. Cosimo’s sons, Giovanni (d. 1463) and Piero the Gouty (d. 1469), are the other two, and the figure to the far left may be a fourth Medici, Lorenzo il Magnifico. The presence of the Medici in the figures of the Magi contained not only a religious message but also a political one. The Medici saw themselves as benevolent leaders and wanted to ally themselves with Florence and its rituals.


A necessary slaughter


I must admit at first it threw me,
competing with a portent. (What fools
would treasure light instead of might?)
Such naïveté: Scholars trekking here
smitten with a star or some convergence
of the cosmos. Yet another fire to put out.

I sent them on their way, their caravan rife
with herbs I could have used myself. Camels
balking and desert horses restless
in the night. Meanwhile that star hummed
like a lute, vibrating on a frequency I coveted
but couldn’t always hear. I slammed the door,
closed the shutters. No way would it make
a shadow out of me. My wife said,

“No worries. They’ll be back.
Anyway, what child can match your currency,
your death squads? The bricks of that
new temple? And Rome behind you? Get real.”

I pulled her close, forgetting which wife
she was (nine? ten?) and glad to have her.
Weeks later, when those wanderers failed
to return, I glanced into my looking glass.
The eyes staring back at me were nothing
but blank gold coins.


Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.