Coming of the Magi

December 23, 2016

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

In the days before Christmas, I confess that one of my favorite parts of the story of the birth of Jesus, or Isa ibn Mariyam, is the coming of the Magi, and the legends that have grown up around them.

In Christian tradition, the Magi, also referred to as the Three Wise Men, Three Kings, or Kings from the East, are said to have visited the baby Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.

The word Magi is a Latinization of the plural of the Greek word magos, itself from Old Persian maguŝ from the religious/priestly caste into which Zoroaster was born. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.

The Gospel of Matthew (2:1-16), the only one of the four Gospels to mention the Magi, states that they came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. Although the account does not tell how many they were, the three gifts led to a widespread assumption that they were three as well. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is linked to Old Testament prophesies such as that in Isaiah 60:3, which describe the Messiah being worshipped by kings.

The Syrian King Seleucus II Callinicusis recorded to have offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Apollo in his temple at Miletus in 243 BC, and this may have been the precedent for the mention of these three gifts in the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). It was these three gifts, it is thought, which were the chief cause for the number of the Magi becoming fixed eventually at three.

A model for the homage of the Magi might have been provided, it has been suggested, by the journey to Rome of King Tiridates I of Armenia, with his magi, to pay homage to the Emperor Nero, which took place in 66 AD, a few years before the date assigned to the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.

And finally, this account by Lewis Williams expands the story in a lovely spiritual way:

While oftentimes conflicting lore muddles the story of the Magi, those bearing gifts for the Christ child are most often named Caspar of Tarsus, Melchior of Persia and Balthasar of Sabia, which was the ancient name of Yemen/Ethiopia (as in the Queen of Sheba/Sabia). Weary from desert travel, the Magi humbly offer their gifts. Caspar is young, European, and offers gold. Gold finances the Holy Family’s coming flight to Egypt and also symbolizes Christ’s immortality and purity. For his generosity, Caspar receives the gifts of charity and spiritual wealth. Melchior is middle-aged, Persian and offers myrrh. Myrrh is a fragrant gum, which the ancient Israelites believed to strengthen children. This symbol of Christ’s mortality was blended with wine and offered to him on the cross, and also mixed with aloes to wrap his body for the tomb. Melchior receives the gifts of humility and truth. Balthasar is elderly, Ethiopian and offers frankincense. Frankincense is a resin used in incense for worship and also symbolizes prayer and sacrifice. Balthasar receives the gift of Faith. And Christ, humbling himself to become man, offers us the greatest gift of all, the light that forever burns in the darkness.

Merry Christmas to all :)

Ya Haqq!

Note: The above painting is Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682).

“Study is not the goal, doing is.” – Wisdom of Rabbi ben Gamliel

December 13, 2016

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

❝I grew up among the Sages. All my life I listened to their words. Yet I have found nothing better than silence. Study is not the goal, doing is. Do not mistake ‘talk’ for ‘action’: Pity fills no stomach. Compassion builds no house. Understanding is not yet justice. Whoever multiplies words causes confusion. The truth that can be spoken is not the ultimate Truth.❞
― Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel (d. 70 CE)

Ya Haqq!

In Memory of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

December 10, 2016

LS2G Love is the Answer to

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Saturday, December 10th would have been the 90th birthday of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (12/10/1926 – 10/10/2008), the late and beloved Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order,  may God sanctify his secret. In his memory, this poem is dedicated.

Love is the answer
to every question

An ocean emerging
from a drop

This you taught us by your
every word, every action,

The revealed science
of the heart, the key

to the door of the spirit
that is never locked

To serve the One,
serve all, you said,

Eat but a little,
Feed the soul instead

As long as life
remains, and then

The drop returns
to the Ocean again,

Of Love, of Love, of Love

Ya Pir! Ya Hayy!

Ya Haqq!

Prayer for Anxiety and Sorrow

November 28, 2016

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Iman (faith) wears out in one’s heart, just as the dress wears out (becomes thin). Therefore, ask Allah to renew iman in your hearts.”
—Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), by Al-Hakim

Prayer for anxiety and sorrow

“O Allah, I am Your servant, child of Your male servant, child of Your female servant. My forelock is in Your hand. Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You name Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.”

– Prayer hadith of the Prophet (saw),  (Musnad Ahmad)

Ya Haqq!

Dhu-l Nun the Egyptian meets an Old Woman on the Road

October 18, 2016

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Dhu-l Nun al-Misri, called the Egyptian, relates that as he was journeying from Jerusalem to Egypt he saw in the distance someone advanving towards him and he felt compelled to ask a question. When the person came near he perceived that it was an old woman carrying a staff and wearing a woolen cloak. He asked her from where she came. She answered ‘from God.’ ‘And where are you going?’ ‘To God.’ Dhu-l Nun then drew forth a piece of gold which he had with him and offered it to her, but she shook her hand in his face and cried, ‘O Dhu-l Nun, the notion which has arisen in your mind of me is from the feebleness of your intelligence. I work for God’s sake, and accept nothing unless from Him. I worship Him alone and take from Him alone.’ With these words she went on her way.”

–  Hujwiri, in the Kashf al-Mahjub, the Revelation of the Mystery (trans. Nicholson, with minor edits)

Ya Haqq!

“Truth smiles through the burden of life.”

September 28, 2016

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Someone was vexed and downcast —
Both outwardly and inwardly; many things
For which he had toiled, had not been successful.
Then he had this experience: despite the pain,
His soul was gladdened, and all the more so;
It was as if the contradiction drew him upwards.
It is not right that the soul should consume itself,
When it knows that God is near.
Thou hast heard about the deceiving devil.
If thou carriest the Lord in thy heart —
Because thou hast been faithful to Him throughout the years —
Truth smiles through the burden of life.”

– Frithjof Schuon

Ya Haqq!

The Vision of Ibn Arabi

September 14, 2016

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“God was shown to me in my inner being during a vision, and He said to me: “Make My servants know what you have perceived of My generosity…  Why do My servants despair of My mercy when My mercy embraces everything?”

– Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

moon over water