Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cologne Cathedral and Epiphany

I had no belief in God when I was a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany. But I was very much attracted to the Koelner Dom -- this grand Gothic Cathedral -- and made several visits. Friends gave us private tours and if they mentioned the Three Wise Men, I don't remember paying attention or taking many pictures. These scant few are all I have. I was awestruck, marveling at the structure and the beauty within.

Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral -- photo taken from Wikipedia
Do these really house the bones of the three wise men? Who knows? Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about it in some depth here. It's believed that St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, who discovered the true Cross, also discovered the remains of the three wise men in the East (probably in India) and brought them back to Constantinople. Yes, legend has it that one of the Wise Men came from India :) Of course, if there's any mention of the East, Indians will claim some part of it. LOL. My mother also told me Elvis Presley was from India.

Our priest gave a wonderful homily for Epiphany. We all know the Gospel story (Matt 2:1-12). The wise men from the East have been following the star that prophesizes the birth of a King. They naturally go to see Herod, who was ruling at the time. He consults with the scribes and priests and indeed, there is a prophecy. Herod is afraid of losing power so tells the Magi to tell him where the Babe is so that he too can give Him homage. Of course, he has no such intention. When the Magi return home another way (warned by an angel) Herod murders all the male children under the age of two. The first martyrs.

Consider the reaction of the three types of people. Herod, afraid of the newborn King, of losing his power. His response is murder (he was such an evil man that he murdered several family members and when he knew he was going to die, he had people killed so that there'd be mourning). Then we have the scribes and the priests, who were indifferent. They check out the Scriptures but aren't moved to do anything. Nowhere do we hear that they are curious or want to see for themselves this amazing event, the coming of the Messiah. Then there are the three wise men, who seek Truth, and will undertake an enormous journey because it is their treasure. They find Truth. And with it, also Beauty and Goodness. They humble themselves and offer what they have and leave completely changed. Once you encounter Christ, you cannot be the same. You will either hate Him, be indifferent, or fall on your knees to worship Him. This is the truth. I am a witness to it.

G. K. Chesterton wrote The World's Desire. I imagine this is what the three Wise Men saw and felt deep in their hearts. Yesterday, Faith posted a poem -- Here is a Little Door -- by his wife, Frances! I like these little coincidences, being on the same wavelength.

May we all receive the gifts of the magi: eyes to seek Him, feet to follow Him, and hearts to worship Him. Wishing you a blessed and happy Epiphany!

Write this upon your doorpost: 20 + C + M + B + 16
The CMB stand for Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar and also Christus mansionem benedicat.


Mirka Breen said...

I love visiting cathedrals with you, Vijaya. They are much more than awesome architecture-- they are sacred spaces.

Mirka Breen said...

Apropos Elvis from India, when I was little, and growing up in the Jewish state, I was told that same Elvis was Jewish. The "proof" was that his middle name was Aaron...

Barbara Etlin said...

I'm giggling at Indian Elvis and Jewish Elvis...

What is the translation of the Latin phrase, Vijaya?

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I remember you telling me how the Jewish people also claimed Elvis.

Barb, the Latin translation is: Christ bless this house.

Rose Green said...

I love the Kölner Dom! It looks like an exact architectural rendition of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. :) Did you ever climb the tower? Not for the faint hearted when it comes to heights.

Love your priest's Epiphany thoughts, too.

Vijaya said...

Rose, now I have to wonder whether Bach was inspired by the Dom! Yes, I did climb the tower -- don't know whether I could do it now though :( Thanks for stopping by.