Coming of the Magi

December 19, 2014

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 and to all a good night :)

Ya Haqq!

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

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Rumi’s Wedding Night – December 17th, 1273

December 16, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

On December 17th, 1273 AD, Mevlana Jalal al-din Rumi died at Konya. The 17th of December is thus called Sheb-i Arus, meaning ‘Bride’s Night” or ‘Nuptial Night’ or ‘Wedding Night,’ because of the union of Mevlana with God. As Rumi’s epitaph states:

‘When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.’

Rumi was a universally loved genius, one of the greatest servants of humanity, founder of the Mevlevi Sufi Brotherhood, his poetry and doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness and charity, and awareness through love. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has reached men of all sects and creeds.

Love and imagination are magicians

Who create an image of the Beloved in your mind

With which you share your secret intimate moments.

This apparition is made of nothing at all,

But from its mouth comes the question,

“Am I not your Loved One?”

And from you the soft reply, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

– Rumi

Inna lillahi wa-inna ilayi raji’un.
(We belong to God and to God are we returning)

Ya Haqq!


In Memory of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

December 10, 2014

LS2G Love is the Answer to

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Monday, December 10th would have been the 88th 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 action, every word,

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!


Psalm

December 5, 2014

I am still on a rooftop in Brooklyn
on your holy day. The harbor is before me,
Governor’s Island, the Verrazano Bridge
and the Narrows. I keep in my head
what Rabbi Nachman said about the world
being a narrow bridge and that the important thing
is not to be afraid. So on this day
I bless my mother and father, that they be
not fearful where they wander. And I
ask you to bless them and before you
close your Book of Life, your Sefer Hachayim,
remember that I always praised your world
and your splendor and that my tongue
tried to say your name on Court Street in Brooklyn.
Take me safely through the Narrows to the sea.

- Harvey Shapiro, from his collection, A Momentary Glory: Last Poems.


Watering the Seeds of Prayer – Thich Nhat Hanh

November 30, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

In prayer you touch
the wholesome seeds
in your consciousness
and water them.

These are seeds of compassion,
love, understanding,
forgiveness and joy.

If while praying
you can recognize
these seeds in you
and help them grow,
your prayer is already
a deep practice.

Prayer is a practice
to help us touch love
and bring it into our lives.

- Thich Nhat Hanh 

Ya Haqq!


Thanksgiving Prayer

November 27, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

O Lord, we humbly thank Thee for the bounty of our table, when so many in the world go hungry. And we thank Thee for our family and friends, when so many in the world walk alone.

O God, grant that we who are blessed with good things from Your open hand, may never close our hands and hearts to the hungry, the homeless, and the poor.

Amen! Ameen!

Happy Thanksgiving to all :)

Ya Haqq!


Love Songs to God: 30 Poems of Love and Longing

November 25, 2014

Love Songs Front Cover

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Just in time for Holiday gift giving, I have published Love Songs to God: 30 Poems of Love and Longing – a slim volume of poems, and lovely photography by fellow traveler Jim Kosinski to accompany each one . 

These love songs are, of course, Sufi poems, and a few odds and ends formed out of that same Source of all joy. They follow no formal rhyme or metre, except when they do, and have only the path of love as a common theme.

It is available as both a slim Paperback from Amazon for $13.99, and an Ebook from Google Play or Smashwords for $3.99.  

Order the Paperback HERE.

Order the Google Play Ebook HERE.

Order the Smashwords Ebook HERE.

Ya Haqq!


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