Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The 4th Magi

I lost my quest
by Cito Beltran

A few days before Christmas, I was somehow reminded of a story commonly entitled The gift of the fourth Magi. The story as far as I can trace was written by Henry Van Dyke. After many adaptations and retelling it was eventually made into a movie for television.

Contrary to common belief the story tells us of Artaban the fourth Magi. He was a Persian priest of the Magi and a king as well. Like Gaspar, Melchior and Balthezar, Artaban was also a historian and an astronomer. They all believed that the Star would guide them to the newborn King.

For this Artaban sold all his possessions to buy gifts to present to the King of Kings. He bought a Sapphire as blue as the night sky, a ruby as red as the rays of the setting sun, a pearl as white as the snow on the mountain top.

Artaban was to meet up with his fellow kings on the tenth day at the Temple of the Seven Spheres but within hours of the appointed time, Artaban stumbles upon a dying stranger. As a healer, Artaban is unable to ignore the poor man and spends hours to give him water and potent remedies which restores the stranger.

He thanked Artaban and knowing of his quest, tells Artaban that the Savior will not be born in Jerusalem but in Bethlehem and prayed for him because he had pity upon the sick. This delay meant that Artaban would never make it to the appointed meeting. It also meant that he would need to use the sapphire to purchase his own caravan to cross the desert.

“I may never overtake my friends. Only God the merciful knows whether I shall lose sight of the King because I stopped to show Mercy.”

After days of crossing the desert, Artaban finally reached Bethlehem and quickly learned that Three Wise Men had presented many rich gifts to the child to honor him….three days past. He also learned that they had departed just as suddenly as they arrived and that Joseph and Mary had fled to Egypt.

The young mother who had told Artaban all the details was busy serving him what little food she had when shouts broke into the night: “The soldiers, the soldiers of Herod are killing our children”.

Artaban in all his majesty stood by the doorway as soldiers with bloody hands and bloody swords came his way led by their captain. Quickly he drew the Ruby that was as red as blood and bribed the Captain to be left in peace, which they quickly did.

As they left Artaban prayed: God of truth forgive my sin! I have said the thing that is not, to save a child. And two of my gifts are gone. Shall I ever be worthy to see the face of the King?”

But the young mother whose child was saved said: “Because you have saved the life of my little one, may the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

So the fourth wise man moved on. Beginning from Egypt and then back to Jerusalem, along the way his quest would be disrupted by the needy, the sick, the broken and always he would stop to help.

For 33 years Artaban kept the faith and saved his last great gift for his great king. During this time he was already very familiar with the prophecy about the Great King. then He had heard of news that the “King of Kings” was in Jerusalem to be crucified at Golgotha.

Artaban rushed to Golgotha somehow hoping to ransom the King with his pearl of great value. He followed the crowd but even before he could see the hill Artaban’s attention was caught by soldiers dragging a young girl with torn dress and matted hair. He stopped and looked at her with compassion.

The young girl suddenly broke free of the soldiers and embraced Artaban’s feet: “Have mercy on me and save me. I also am a daughter of the true religion of the Magi. Now I am to be sold as a slave to pay my father’s debts. Save me from this fate worse than death”.

Once again Artaban trembled from the same familiar feeling. His heart again ached for a stranger suffering and in great need of his help. His mind tormented from the possibility of defeat of failing in his quest, his life’s wish of meeting the King of Kings to honor him with his last great gift.

Artaban reached for the pearl and it shone as no other gem did. Truly a gift fit for the King. “This is your ransom, daughter!” The soldiers released the girl and moments later Artaban collapsed as if in defeat thinking how he wasted all those years and losing all the gifts he had for the King of Kings.

Just then he saw someone who was unmistakably a great King. Artaban realized that he was in the presence of the King he had long sought out. He also realized that he had nothing left to honor him with.

It was then that the King of Kings reminded him of the sick poor man he helped at the beginning of his journey. Of the mother and her child he saved from Herod’s soldiers, and the young girl being dragged into slavery. “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me”.

A king had found his King.

1 comment:

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