In his poem on the Dark Night, John of the Cross writes of journeying
Sin otra luz y guia,
Sino la que en el corazon ardia
And with no other light or guide
Except for that which in my heart was burning
And that, to a certain extent, is how the Magi travelled. Yes, they had their "star of wonder" to guide them, but that didn't make the journey easy or the destination crystal clear. And if it hadn't been for the light of desire burning in their hearts they would not have been looking out for the star, much less set out on such a long, arduous, dangerous journey, not knowing where and to what they would be led.
Today's feast of the Epiphany presents us with journey's end: the joy, relief and wonder - and, I'm sure, the utter surprise at finding what they has been seeking in such an unexpected place! (Who, after all, expects to find a baby king in a stable?) Journey's end is glorious, especially when the journey itself has been long or difficult: finding the treasure is all the sweeter when the searching hasn't been easy.
Eighteen years ago yesterday I became a candidate with the Society. The journey to that day had been long; a winding, twisting road with its fair share of rocky places, wrong turns and confusing junctions, as well as moments of sheer joy and absolute clarity. What kept me going - especially in the darkest times, when all seemed like rocks and crevasses - was that guiding light burning within me; at times spluttering and flickering, at others flaring gloriously, but always there, somehow lighting the way and kindling my hope and desire. It kept me searching, kept me praying, kept me heading in the right direction.
They say that when pilgrims arrive at their destination they learn that now the true pilgrimage begins. Likewise, the Magis' journey did not end in Bethlehem: they now returned home by a different route, profoundly changed by their experience, pondering all that it had meant and would mean to them. And I can certainly say the same. I too arrived at my destination, reached what I considered to be journey's end, only to discover that the journeying and the searching didn't stop - they simply became (and continue to be) richer, deeper, more challenging and ultimately more rewarding. Thank God for that.