The Adoration of the Magi, depicted in the 19th century Oberammergau altarpiece in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality
Year II, 14:00 to 16:30, Mondays, Hartin Room:
17 November 2014
Seminar: homiletics in liturgy and homiletics in history: readings in Saint Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and Martin Luther King.
(3) Lancelot Andrewes
Sir John Harington observed during the reign of King James I (the king who gave his name to the King James or Authorised Version of the Bible), that when it came to the time for the sermon, “courtiers’ eares are commonly so open as it goes in at one eare and out at the other.”
However, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) fascinated all with his style of preaching. Peter McCullough, in his edited Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures, says Andrewes was colloquial yet learned, using “curt syntactical units” to build up something that marches on pleasingly, like a Bach fugue.
Because each part depends on what went before, it is hard to quote short excerpts from his sermons.
In one of his great Christmas sermons, preached in 1611, he reflects on what it means to say “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory … full of grace and truth.” That sermon contains the essence of what became George Herbert’s poem, ‘Come my Way my Truth my Life.’ It is also the starting point for TS Eliot’s lines about ‘The word without a word’ in ‘Gerontion’ and ‘Ash Wednesday.’ And it may also have provided CS Lewis with his original locus for the children’ first glimpse of Aslan emerging from his Pavilion in the midst of the encamped Narnians.
But perhaps the best-known passage from any of his sermons reads: “A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey in. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solstitio brumali, the very dead of winter.”
These words from a sermon preached to King James I at Whitehall on Christmas Day 1622 provided TS Eliot with the inspiration for his poem, ‘The Journey of the Magi.’
It is also one of the earliest instances I know of where we find the proverb: ‘The nearer the Church, the farther from God.’
There is a poetic and lyrical quality to the prose sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, and there was nothing accidental in their structure, for he preached after learning his sermons by heart.
During his life Andrewes was, variously, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Dean of Westminster Abbey, Bishop of Chichester, Bishop of Ely and Bishop of Winchester, and was one of the translators of the King James Version of the Bible.
His best-known sermons lasted perhaps an hour or more, beginning by stating the Bible text in Latin and English, and then giving the structure he is to follow in commenting on it.
His preaching style has long gone out of fashion. But in his time they may have been the Sunday theatre of the day.
The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes by the high altar in the Church of Saint Mary Overie, then in the Diocese of Winchester but now Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Lancelot Andrewes, Christmas Day Sermon, 1622
Project Canterbury, Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume 1, pp 249-264.
Sermon of the Nativity, Preached upon Christmas Day 1622 before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday 25 December 1622, transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
Saint Matthew 2: 1-2
Behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is He That is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.
Ecce magi ab Oriente venerunt Jerosolymam, Dicentes, Ubi est Qui natus est Rex Judaeorum? Vidimus enim stellam Ejus in Oriente, et venimus adorare Eum.
There be in these two verses two principal points, as was observed when time was; 1. The persons that arrived at Jerusalem, 2. and their errand. The persons in the former verse, whereof hath been treated heretofore. Their errand in the latter, whereof we are now to deal.
Their errand we may best learn from themselves out of their dicentes &c. Which, in a word, is to worship Him. Their errand our errand, and the errand of this day.
This text may seem to come a little too soon, before the time; and should have stayed till the day it was spoken on, rather than on this day. But if you mark them well, there are in the verse four words that be verba diei hujus, ‘proper and peculiar to this very day.’ 1. For first, natus est is most proper to this day of all days, the day of His Nativity. 2. Secondly, vidimus stellam; for on this day it was first seen, appeared first. 3. Thirdly, venimus; for this day they set forth, began their journey. 4. And last, adorare Eum; for ‘when He brought His only-begotten Son into the world, He gave in charge, Let all Angels of God worship Him’. And when the Angels to do it, no time more proper for us to do it as then. So these four appropriate it to this day, and none but this.
The main heads of their errands are 1. Vidimus stellam, the occasion; 2. and Venimus adorare, the end of their coming. But for the better conceiving it I will take another course, to set forth, these points to be handled.
Their faith first: faith in that they never ask ‘Whether He be,’ but ‘Where He is born;’ for that born He is that they stedfastly believe.
Then ‘the work or service’ of this faith, as St. Paul calleth it, ‘the touch or trial,’ δοκίμιον, as St. Peter; the ostende mihi, as St. James; of this their faith in these five. 1. Their confessing of it in venerunt dicentes.
Venerunt, they were no sooner come, but they tell it out; confess Him and His birth to be the cause of their coming. 2. Secondly, as confess their faith, so the ground of their faith; vidimus enim, for they had ‘seen’ His star; and His star being risen, by it they knew He must be risen too. 3. Thirdly, as St. Paul calls them in Abraham’s, vetigia fidei, ‘the steps of their faith,’ in venimus, ‘their coming,’ coming such a journey, at such a time, with such speed. 4. Fourthly, when they were come, their diligent enquiring Him out by ubi est? for here is the place of it, asking after Him to find where He was. 5. And last, when they had found Him, the end of their seeing, coming, seeking; and all for no other end but to worship Him. Here they say it, at the 11th verse they do it in these two acts; 1. procidentes, their falling down, 2. and obtulerunt, their ‘offering’ to Him. Worship with Him with their bodies, worship Him with their goods; their worship and ours the true worship of Christ.
The text is a star, and we may make all run on a star, that so the text and day may be suitable, and Heaven and earth hold a correspondence. St. Peter calls faith ‘the day-star rising in our hearts,’ which sorts well with the star in the text rising in the sky, That in the sky manifesting itself from above to them; this in their hearts manifesting itself from below to Him, to Christ. Manifesting itself by these five. 1. by ore fit confession, ‘the confessing of it;’ 2. by fides est substantia, ‘the ground of it;’ 3. by vestigia fidei, ‘the steps of it’ in their painful coming; 4. by their ubi est? ‘careful enquiring;’ 5. and last, by adorare Eum, ‘their devout worshipping.’ These five, as so many beams of faith, the day-star risen in their hearts. To take notice of them. For every one of them is of the nature of a condition, so as if we fail in them, non lucet nobis stella haec, ‘we have no part in the light, or conduct of this star.’ Neither in stellam, ‘the star itself,’ nor in Ejus, ‘in Him Whose the star is;’ that is, not in Christ neither.
We have now got us a star on earth for that in Heaven. The first in the firmament; that appeared unto them, and in them to us, a figure of St. Paul’s: Ἐπεφάνη, ‘the grace of God appearing, and bringing salvation to all men,’ Jews and Gentiles alike. The second here on earth is St.Peter’s, Lucifer in cordibus; and this appeared in them, and so must in us. Appeared 1. in their eyes, vidimus; 2 in their feet, venimus; 3. in their lips dicentes ubi est; 4. in their knees, procidentes, ‘falling down;’ 5. in their hands, obtulerunt, ‘by offering.’ These five every one a beam of this star. 3. The third in Christ Himself, St. John’s star. ‘The generation and root of David, the bright morning star, Christ.’ And He, His double appearing. 1. One at this time now, when He appeared in great humility; and we see and come to him by faith. 2. The other, which we wait for, even ‘the blessed hope, and appearing of the great God and our Saviour’ in the majesty of His glory.
These three: 1. The first that manifested Christ to them; 2. the second that manifested them to Christ; 3. The third Christ Himself, in Whom both these were as it were in conjunction. Christ ‘the bright morning star’ of that day which will have no night; the beatifica visio of which day is the consummatum est of our hope and happiness for ever.
Of these three stars the first is gone, the third yet to come, the second only present. We to look to that, and to the five beams of it. That is it must do us all the good, and bring us to the third.
St. Luke calleth faith the ‘door of faith.’ At this door let us enter. Here is a coming, and ‘he that cometh to God,’ and so he that to Christ, ‘we must believe, that Christ is;’ so do these. They never ask an sit, but ubi sit? Not ‘whether’ but ‘where He is born.’ They that ask ubi Qui natus? take natus for granted, presuppose that born He is. Herein is faith, faith of Christ’s being born, the third article of the Christian Creed.
And what believe they of Him? Out of their own words here; 1. first that natus, that ‘born’ He is and so Man He is, His human nature. 2. And as His nature, so His office in natus est Rex. They believe that too. 3. But Judaeorum may seem to be a bar; for then, what have they to do with ‘the King of the Jews?’ They be Gentiles, none of His lieges, no relation to Him at all; what do they seeking or worshipping Him? But weigh it well, and it is no bar. For this they seem to believe: He is so Rex Judaeorum, ‘the King of the Jews,’ as He is adorandus a Gentibus, ‘the Gentiles to adore Him.’ And though born in Jewry, yet Whose birth concerned them though Gentiles, though born far off in the ‘mountains of the east.’ They to have some benefit by Him and His birth, and for that to do Him worship, seeing officum fundatur in beneficio ever. 4. As thus born in earth, so a star He hath in Heaven of His own, stellam Ejusi, ‘His star;’ He the owner of it. Now we know the stars are the stars of Heaven, and He that Lord of them Lord of Heaven too; and so to be adored of them, of us, and all. St. John puts them together; ‘the root and generation of David,’ His earthly; and ‘the bright morning star,’ His Heavenly or Divine generation. Haec fides Magorum, this is the mystery of their faith. In natus est, man; in stellam Ejus, God. In Rex, ‘a King,’ though of the Jews, yet the god of Whose Kingdom should extend and stretch itself far and wide to Gentiles and all; and He of all to be adored. This for corde creditor, the day-star itself in their hearts. Now to the beams of this star.
Next to corde creditor is ore fit confession, ‘the confession’ of this faith. It is in venerunt dicentes, they came with it in their mouths. Venerunt, they were no sooner come, but they spake of it so freely, to so many, as it came to Herod’s ear and troubled him not a little that any King of the Jews should be worshipped beside himself. So then their faith is no bosom-faith, kept to themselves without saying anything of it to anybody. No; credidi, propter quod lecutus sum, ‘they believed, and therefore they spake.’ The star in their hearts cast one beam out at their mouths. And though Herod who was but Rex factus could evil brook of ‘Rex natus,’ must needs be offended at it, yet they were not afraid to say it. And though they came from the East, those parts to whom and their King the Jews had long time been captives and their underlings, they were not ashamed neither to tell, that One of the Jews’ race they came to seek; and to seek Him to the end ‘to worship Him.’ So neither afraid of Herod, nor ashamed of Christ; but professed their errand, and cared not who knew it. This for their confessing Him boldly.
But faith is said by the Apostle to be, ¯pñstasij, and so there is a good ‘ground;’ and Ïlegxoj, and so hath a good ‘reason’ for it. This puts a difference between fidelis and credulous, or as Solomon terms him fatus, qui credit omni verbo; between faith and lightness of belief. Faith hath ever as ground; vidimus enim, an enim, a reason for it, and is ready to render it. How came you to believe? Audivimus enim ‘for we have heard an Angel,’ say the shepherds. Vidimus enim, ‘for we have seen a star’ say the Magi, and this is a well-grounded faith. We came not of our own heads, we came not before we saw some reason for it, saw that which set us on coming; Vidimus enim stellam Ejus.
Vidimud stellam, we can well conceive that; any that will but look up, may see a star. But how could they see the Ejus of it, that it was His? Either that it belonged to any, or that He it was it belonged to. This passeth all perspective; no astronomy could shew them this. What by course of nature the star can produce, that they by course of nature the stars can produce, that they by course of art or observation may discover. But this birth was above nature. No trigon, triplicity, exaltation could bring it forth. They are but idle that set figures for it. The star should not have been His, but He the star’s, if it had gone that way. Some other light then, they saw this Ejus by.
Now with us in Divinity there be but two in all; 1. Vespertina, 2. Matutina lux. Vespertina, ‘the owl-light’ of our reason or skill is too dim to see it by. No remedy then but it must be as Esay calls it, matutina lux, ‘the morning-light,’ the light of God’s law must certify them of the Ejus of it. There, or not at all to be had whom this star did portend.
And in the Law, there we find it in the twenty-fourth of Numbers. One of their own Prophets that came from whence they came, ‘from the mountains of the East,’ was ravished in spirit, ‘fell in a trance, had his eyes opened,’ and saw the Ejus if it many an hundred years before it rose. Saw orietur in Jacob, that there it should ‘rise,’ which is as much as natus est here. Saw stella, that He should be ‘the bright morning-Star,’ and so might well have a star to represent Him. Saw sceptrum in Israel, which is just as much as Rex Judaeorum, that it should portend a King there, such a King as should not only ‘smite the corners of Moab,’ that is Balak their enemy for the present; but ‘should reduce and bring under Him all the sons of Seth,’ that is all the world; for all are now Seth’s sons, Cain’s were all drowned in the flood. Here now is the Ejus of it clear. A Prophet’s eye might discern this; never a Chaldean of them all could take it with his astrolabe. Balaam’s eyes were opened to see it, and he helped to open their eyes by leaving behind him this prophecy to direct them how to apply it, when it should arise to the right Ejus of it.
But these had not the law. It is hard to say that the Chaldee paraphrase was extant long before this. They might have had it. Say, they had it not: if Moses were so careful to record this prophecy in his book, it may well be thought that some memory of this so memorable a prediction was left remaining among them of the East, his own country, where he was born and brought up. And some help they might have from Daniel too, who lived all his time in Chaldea and Persia, and prophesied among them of such a King, and set the just time of it.
And this, as it is conceived, put the difference between the East and the West. For I ask, was it vidimus in Oriente with them? Was it not vidimus in Occidente? In the West such a star, it or the fellow of it was seen nigh about that time, or the Roman stories deceive us. Toward the end of Augustus’ reign such a star was seen, and much scanning there was about it. Pliny saith it was generally holden, that star to be faustum sydus, ‘a lucky comet,’ and portended good to the world, which few or no comets do. And Virgil, who then lived, would needs take upon him to set down the ejus of it.
Ecce Dionaei &c., entitled Caesar to it. And verily there is no man that can without admiration read his sixth Eclogue, of a birth that time expected, that should be the offspring of the gods, and that should take away their sins. Whereupon it hath gone for current, the East and West, vidimus both.
But by the light of their prophecy, the East they went straight to the right Ejus. And for want of this light the West wandered, and gave it a wrong ejus; as Virgil, applying it to little Salonine: and as evil hap was, while he was making his verses, the poor child died; and so his star shot, vanished, and came to nothing. Their vidimus never came to a venimus; they neither went, nor worshipped Him as these here did.
But by this we see, when all is done, hither we must come for our morning light; to this book, to the word of prophecy. All our vidimus stellam is as good as nothing without it. The star is past and gone, long since. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass, but this word shall not pass.’ Here on this, we to fix our eye and to ground our faith. Having this, though we neither hear Angel nor see star, we may by the grace of God do full well. For even they that have had both those, have been fain to resolve into this as their last, best, and chiefest point of all. Witness St. Peter: he, saith he, and they with him, ‘saw Christ’s glory, and heard the voice from Heaven in the Holy Mount.’ What then? After both these audivimus and vidimus, both senses, he comes to this, habemus autem firmiorem, &c. ‘We have a more sure word of prophecy’ than both these; firmiorem, a more clear, than them both. And si haec legimus, for legimus is vidimus, ‘if here we read it written,’ it is enough to ground our faith, and let the star go.
And yet, to end this point; both these, the star and the prophecy, they are but circumfusa lux, without both. Besides these there must be a light within the eye; else, we know, for all them nothing will be seen. And that must come from Him, and the enlightening of His Spirit. Take this for a rule; no knowing of Ejus absque Eo, ‘of His without Him,’ Whose it is. Neither of the star, without Him That inspired it. But this third coming too; He sending the light of His Spirit within into their minds, they then saw clearly, this the star, now the time, He the Child who this day was born. He That sent these two without, sent also this third within, and then it was vidimus indeed. The light of the star in their eyes, ‘the word of prophecy’ in their ears, the beam of His Spirit in their hearts; these three made up a full vidimus. And so much for vidimus stellam Ejus, the occasion of their coming.
Now to venimus, their coming itself. And it follows well. For it is not a star only, but a load-star; and whither should stella Ejus ducere, but ad Eum? ‘Whither lead us, but to Him Whose the star is?’ The star to the star’s Master.
All this while we have been at dicentes, ‘saying’ and seeing; now we shall come to facientes, see them do somewhat upon it. It is not saying nor seeing will serve St. James; he will call, and be still calling forostende mihi, ‘shew me thy faith by some work.’ And well may he be allowed to call for it this day; it is the day of vidimus, appearing, being seen. You have seen His star, let Him now see your star another while. And so they do. Make your faith be seen; so it is, their faith in the steps of their faith. And so was Abraham’s first by coming forth of his country; as these here do, and so ‘walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham,’ do his first work.
It is not commended to stand ‘gazing up to heaven’ too long; not on Christ Himself ascending, much less on His star. For they sat not still gazing on the star. Their vidimus begat venimus; their seeing made them come, come a great journey. Venimus is soon said, but a short word; but many a wide and weary step they made before they could come to say venimus; lo, here ‘we are come;’ come, and at our journey’s end. To look a little on it. In this their coming we consider, 1. First, the distance of the place they came from. It was not hard by as the shepherds, but a step to Bethlehem over the fields; this was riding many a hundred miles, and cost them many a day’s journey. 2. Secondly, we consider the way that they came, if it be pleasant, or plain and easy; for if it be, it is so much the better. 1. This was nothing pleasant, for through deserts, all the way waste and desolate. 2. Nor secondly, easy neither; for over the rocks and crags of both Arabias, specially Petraea, their journey lay. 3. Yet if safe, but it was not, but exceeding dangerous, as lying through the midst of the ‘black tents of Kedar,’ a nation of thieves and cut-throats; to pass over the hills of robbers, infamous then, and infamous to this day. No passing without great troop or convoy. 4. Last we consider the time of their coming, the season of the year. It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solsitio brumali, ‘the very dead of winter.’ Venimus, ‘we are come,’ if that be one, venimus, ‘we are now come,’ come at this time, that sure is another.
And these difficulties they overcame, of a wearisome, irksome, troublesome, dangerous, unseasonable journey; and for all this they came. And came it cheerfully and quickly, as appeareth by the speed they made. It was but vidimus, venimus, with them; ‘they saw,’ and ‘they came;’ no sooner saw, but they set out presently. So as upon the first appearing of the star, as it might be last night, they knew it was Balaam’s star; it called them away, they made ready straight to begin their journey this morning. A sign they were highly conceited of His birth, believed some great matter of it, that they took all these pains, made all this haste that they might be there to worship Him with all the possible speed they could. Sorry for nothing so much as that they could not be there soon enough, with the very first, to do it even this day, the day of His birth. All considered, there is more in venimus than shews at the first sight. It was not for nothing it was said in the first verse, ecce venerunt; their coming hath an ecce on it, it well deserves it.
And we, what should we have done? Sure these men of the East will rise in judgment against the men of the West, that is with us, and their faith against ours in this point. With them it was but vidimus, venimus; with us it would have been but veniemus at most. Our fashion is to see and see again before we stir a foot, specially if it be to the worship of Christ. Come such a journey at such a time? No; but fairly have put it off to the spring of the year, till the days longer, and the ways fairer, and the weather warmer, till better travelling to Christ. Our Epiphany would sure have fallen in Easter week at the soonest.
But then for the distance, desolateness, tediousness, and the rest, any of them were enough to mar our venimus quite. It must be no great way, first we must come; we love not that. Well fare the shepherds, yet they came but hard by; rather like them than the Magi. Nay, not like them neither. For with us the nearer, lightly the farther off; our proverb is you know, ‘the nearer the Church, the farther from God.’
Nor it must not be through no desert, over no Petraea. If rugged or uneven the way, if the weather ill-disposed, if any so little danger, it is enough to stay us. To Christ we cannot travel, but weather and way and all must be fair. If not, no journey, but still and see farther. As indeed, all our religion is rather vidimus, a contemplation, than venimus, a motion, or stirring to do ought.
But when we do it, we must be allowed leisure. Ever veniemus, never venimus; ever coming, never come. We love to make no great haste. To other things perhaps not adorare, the place of the worship of God. Why should we? Christ is no wild-cat. What talk ye of twelve days? And if it be forty days hence, ye shall be sure to find His Mother and Him; she cannot be churched till then. What needs such haste? The truth is, we conceit Him and His birth but slenderly, and our haste is even thereafter. But if we be at that point, we must be out of this venimus; they like enough to leave us behind. Best get us a new Christmas in September; we are not like to come to Christ at this feast. Enough for venimus.
But what is venimus without invenimus? And when they come, they hit not on Him at first. No more must we think, as soon as ever we become, to find Him straight. They are fain to come to their ubi est? We must now look back to that. For though it stand before they came, and came before they asked; asked before they found, and found before they worshipped. Between venimus, ‘their coming,’ and adorare, ‘their worshipping,’ there is the true place of dicentes, ubi est?
Where, first, we note a double use of their dicentes, these wise men had. 1. As to manifest what they knew, natus est, ‘that He is born,’ so to confess and ask what they knew not, the place where. We to have the like.
2. Secondly, set down this; that to find where He is, we must learn to ask where He is, which we full little set ourselves to do. If we stumble on Him, so it is; but for any asking we trouble not ourselves, but sit still as we say, and let nature work; and so let grace too, and so for us it shall. I wot well, it is said in a place of Esay, ‘He was found,’ a non quaerentibus, ‘of some that sought Him not,’ never asked ubi est. But it is no good holding by that place. It was their good hap that so did. But trust not to do it, it is not everybody's case, that. It is better advice you shall read in the Psalm, haec est generatio quaerentium, ‘there is a generation of them that seek Him.’ Of which these were, and of that generation let us be. Regularly there is no promise of invenietis but to quaerite, of finding but to such as ‘seek.’ It is not safe to presume to find Him otherwise.
I thought there had been small use now of ubi est? Yet there is except we hold the ubiquity, that is ubi non, ‘any where.’ But He is not so. Christ has His ubi, His proper place where He is to be found; and if you miss of that, you miss of Him. And well may we miss, says Christ Himself, there are so many will take upon them to tell us where, and tell us of so many ubis. Ecce haec. ‘Look you. here He is;’ Nay, in penetralibis, ‘in such a privy conventicle’ you shall be sure of Him. And yet He, saith He Himself, in one of them all. There is then yet place for ubi est? I speak not of His natural body, but of His mystical, that is Christ too.
How shall we then do? Where shall we get this ‘where’ resolved? Where these did. They said it to many, and oft, but got not answer, till they had got together a convocation of Scribes, and they resolved them of Christ’s ubi. For they in the East were nothing so wise, or well seen, as we in the West are now grown. We need call no Scribes together, and get them tell us, ‘where.’ Every artisan hath a whole Synod of Scribes in his brain, and can tell where Christ is better than any learned man of them all. Yet these were wise men; best learn where they did.
And how did the Scribes resolve it them? Out of Micah. As before to the star they join Balaam’s prophecy, so now again to His orietur, that such a one should be born, they had put Micah’s et tu Bethlehem, the place of His birth. Still helping, and giving light as it were to the light of Heaven, by a more clear light, the light of the Sanctuary.
Thus then to do. And to do it ourselves, and not seek Christ per alium; set others about it as Herod did these, and sit still ourselves. For so, we may hap never find Him no more than he did.
And now we have found ‘where,’ what then? It is neither in seeking nor finding, venimus nor invenimus; the end of all, the cause of all is in the last words, adorare Eum, ‘to worship Him.’ That is all in all, and without it all our seeing, coming, seeking and finding is to no purpose. The Scribes they could tell, and did tell where He was, but were never the nearer for it, for they worshipped Him not. For this end to seek Him.
This is acknowledged: Herod, in effect, said as much. He would know where He were fain, and if they will bring him word where, he will come too and worship Him, that He will. None of that worship. If he find Him, his worshipping will prove worrying; as did appear by a sort of silly poor lambs that he worried, when he could not have his will on Christ. Thus he at His birth.
And at His death, the other Herod, he sought Him too; but it was that he and his soldiers might make themselves sport with Him. Such seeking there is otherwhile. And such worshipping; as they in the judgment-hall worshipped Him with Ave Rex, and then gave Him a bob blindfold. The world’s worship of Him for the most part.
But we may be bold to say, Herod was ‘a fox.’ These mean as they say; to worship Him they come, and worship Him they will. Will they so? Be they well advised what they promise, before they know whether they shall find Him in a worshipful taking or no? For full little know they, where and in what case they shall find Him. What, if in a stable, laid there in a manger, and the rest suitable to it; in as poor and pitiful a plight as ever was any, more like to be abhorred than adored of such persons? Will they be as good as their word, trow? Will they not step back at the sight, repent themselves of their journey, and wish themselves at home again? But so find Him, and so finding Him, worship Him for all that? If they will, verily then great is their faith. This, the clearest beam of all.
‘The Queen of the South,’ who was a figure of these Kings of the East, she came as great a journey as these. But when she came, she found a King indeed, King Solomon in all his royalty. Saw a glorious King, and a glorious court about him. Saw, him, and heard him; tried him with many hard questions, received satisfaction of them all. This was worth her coming. Weigh what she found, and what these here, as poor and unlikely a birth as could be, ever to prove a King, or any great matter. No sight to comfort them, nor a word for which they any wit the wiser; nothing worth their travel. Weigh these together, and great odds will be found between her faith and theirs. Theirs the greater far.
Well, they will take Him as they find Him, and all this notwithstanding, worship Him for all that. The Star shall make amends for the manger, and for stella Ejus they will dispense with Eum.
And what is it to worship? Some great matter sure it is, that Heaven and earth, the stars and Prophets, thus do but serve to lead them and conduct us to. For all we see ends in adorare. Scriptura et mundud as hoc sunt, ut colatur Qui creavit, et adoretur Qui inspiravit; ‘the Scripture and world are but to this end, that He That created the one and inspired the other might be but worshipped.’ Such reckoning did these seem to make of it here. And such the great treasurer of the Queen Candace. These came from the mountains in the East; he from the uttermost part of Æthiopia came, and came for no other end but only this, to worship; and when they had done that, home again. Tanti est adorare. Worth the while, worth our coming, if coming we do but that, but worship and nothing else. And so I would have men account of it.
To tell you what it in particular, I must put you over to the eleventh verse, where it is set down what they did when they worshipped. It is set down in two acts ‘falling down,’ and ‘offering.’ Thus did they, thus we to do; we to do the like when we will worship. These two are all and more than these we find not.
We can worship God but three ways: we have but three things to worship Him withal. 1. The soul He hath inspired; 2. the body He hath ordained us; 3. and the worldly goods He hath vouchsafed to bless us withal. We to worship Him with all, seeing there is but one reason for all.
If He breathed into us our soul, but framed not our body, but some other did that, neither bow your knee nor uncover your head, but keep on your hats, and sit even as you do hardly. But if He hath framed that body of yours and every member of it, let Him have the honour both of head and knee, and every member else.
Again, if it be not He That gave us our wordly goods but somebody else, what He gave not, that withhold from Him and spare not. But if all come from Him, all to return to Him. If He send all, to be worshipped with all. And this in good sooth is but rationabile obsequium, as the Apostle calleth it. No more than reason would, we should worship Him with all.
If all our worship be inward only, with our hearts and not our hats as some fondly imagine, we give Him but one of three; we put Him to His thirds, bid Him be content with that, He get no more but inward worship. That is out of the text quite. For though I doubt not but these here performed that also, yet here it is not. St. Matthew mentions it not, it is not to be seen, no vidimus on it. And the text is a vidimus, and of a star; that is, of an outward visible worship to be seen of all. There is a vidimus upon the worship of the body, it may be seen, procidentes. Let us see you fall down. So is there upon the worship with our worldly goods, that may be seen and felt offerentes. Let us see whether and what you offer. With both which, no less than with the soul God is to be worshipped. ‘Glorify God with your bodies, for they are God’s,’ saith the Apostle. ‘Honour God with your substance, for He hath blessed your store,’ saith Solomon. It is the precept of a wise King, of one there; it is the practice of more than one, of these three here. Specially now; for Christ hath now a body, for which to do Him worship with our bodies. And now He was made poor to make us rich, and so offerentes will do well, comes very fit.
To enter farther into these two would be too long, and indeed they be not in our verse here, and so for some other treatise at some other time.
There now remains nothing but to include ourselves, and bear our part with them, and with the angels, and all who this day adored Him.
This was the loadstar of the Magi, and what were they? Gentiles. So are we. But it if must be ours, then we are to go with them; vade, et fac similiter, ‘go, and do thou likewise.’ It is Stella gentium, butidem agentium, ‘the Gentiles’ star,’ but ‘such Gentiles as overtake these and keep company with them.’ In their dicentes, ‘confessing their faith freely;’ in their vidimus, ‘grounding it thoroughly’; in their venimus, ‘hasting to come to Him speedily’; in their ubi est, ‘enquiring Him out diligently’; and in their adorare um, ‘worshipping Him devoutly.’ Per Omnia doing as these did; worshipping and thus worshipping, celebrating and thus celebrating the feast of His birth.
We cannot say vidimus stellam; the star is gone long since, not now to be seen. Yet I hope for all that, that venimus adorare, ‘we be come thither to worship.’ It will be more acceptable, if not seeing it we worship though. It is enough we read of it in the text; we see it there. And indeed, as I said, it skills not for the star in the firmament, if the same day-star be risen in our hearts that was in theirs, and the same beams of it to be seen, all five. For then we have our part in it no less, nay full out as much as they. It will bring us whither it brought them, to Christ, Who at His second appearing in glory will call forth these wise men, and all who have ensued the steps of their faith, and that upon the reason specified in the text; for I have seen their star shining and showing forth itself by the like beams; and as they came to worship Me, so am I come to do them worship. A venite then, for a venimus now. Their star I have seen, and give them a place above among the stars. They fell down; I will lift them up and exalt them. And as they offered to Me, so I am come to bestow on them, and to reward them with endless joy and bliss on My heavenly Kingdom. To which, &c.
The Journey of the Magi, by TS Eliot
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
The Adoration of the Magi ... a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This posting was prepared for the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality, on the MTh course, on 10 November 2014 in advance of a seminar on 17 November 2014.