C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33
Sovereign Grand Commander
The three Wise Men of the Christmas story relate to
people of all faiths.
They are enigmatic figures, those three Wise Men. Almost everything we think we know about them--their names, that they were kings, that they rode camels, that they were accompanied by attendants--comes not from Biblical sources but from later traditions.
By all accounts, we know that they were wise, that they had observed some phenomenon in the heavens and had interpreted it as heralding a major event in the life of the Jews. We know that they asked the way of Herod, that they visited the Holy Family with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, that they were warned not to return to the court of Herod.
These three figures are a powerful part of the Christmas story and a part which relates to men and women of all faiths. If, as many scholars believe, they literally were Magi (Magi is the plural of Magus), then almost certainly they were from Persia. A Magus was a semi-official figure in Persian cultural and court life. The Magi were walking universities whose task was to learn, to know, and to teach. They were concerned with knowledge of the spiritual as well as the physical world. If they observed a sign in the heavens, it would have been part of their responsibilities to discover what it meant.
They represent a blending of faith and reason--of the ability to believe and the ability to question. And that state of mind is essential to a healthy faith.
They also represent a broadening of the message of this season, for they were of a faith very different from that of the Jews, or what would become Christianity, or from Islam. The Magi would have been followers of Zoroaster, the great religious reformer who had lived 500 years before. Yet here they are, in the middle of the Christmas story, playing an important role.
To me that suggests the universality we find in Masonry where good men of every faith can seek to serve the Deity as their faith perceives God and to be used by the Deity in His great plan.
Then, of course, their entire trip is a quest. They are following the light, seeking understanding and enlightenment. And they are willing to make sacrifices to follow the light, to understand more, to grow and develop spiritually and intellectually. It was a need in them as great as the need for food or drink. That is another part of the Masonic message of this season. We need to become more, to know and understand more. The Mason who stops seeking, learning, and growing is being untrue to his profession.
In the process of learning, the Magi gave. They gave not only of their time and attention, but also of material gifts. There are those who decry the holiday season gift-giving, claiming it commercializes what should be a spiritual moment. It can go too far, of course; any good thing can. But it seems appro-priate to me that we should think each year of ways we can make those we love happy with some gift carefully chosen and given with joy. In the Christian tradition, the giving of gifts at Christmas began with the gifts of the Magi.
This combination of learning and giving is a powerful symbol of a successful life. And, again, it resonates in Masonry. “In your leisure hours,” says the Entered Apprentice Degree in the Preston-Webb work, “that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will be ready to receive instruction.” Learning and giving keep us spiritually young and vital.
During this season, special to Masons of all faiths, may the example and the gifts of the Wise Men shine in your life, may you seek and find the object of your personal quest, and may the new year bring you more happiness and fulfillment than ever.
It is always a pleasure to welcome visitors to the House of the Temple, 1733 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-3103. Located on Sixteenth Street between R and S Streets, seven blocks NE of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, Red Line, the Temple is open to Brothers, guests, and the general public for tours from 8 am to 2 pm on weekdays. The Temple is also open on weekends and holidays for groups of 25 or more provided special arrangements are made in advance with the Grand Executive Director's office (202)232-3579. Visitors are requested to register at the door.