Wise men? The three kings? Astrologers from the East? This can all sound a bit vague. Today, January
6th, is the day we remember them.
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:’
The Journey of the Magi (1927) T.S. Eliot
Actually they have names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Better than that there is nothing vague about the gifts they brought. They brought presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Indeed what they brought was no accident as each of these special gifts represented something very important. The gold symbolising kingship on earth, the frankincense, an incense linking with deity and myrrh, an embalming oil symbolising death.
Imagine though for a minute if it was a case of the three wise women. Gay, Mel and Baz! The three queens from the east! Or the West! I wonder what gifts they would bear? What presents would the three wise women bring?
Perhaps their gifts would be more practical? Would they have brought nappies and sudocrem? A little blanket, a new rig out for the baby, or as women, would they also bring something nice for Mary after all she had been through.
I guess if it was three wise women the conversation in the stable would be somewhat different. Did Joseph, the shepherds and the ‘wise ones’ talk about the weather, the cost of shoeing a camel, the
demands of lambing and how Nazareth Kick-ams were doing in the league?
Would the women speak of the baby? the pregnancy? Their own babies? or lack of?
Who is wiser, men or women? Or does the question itself lack wisdom? Clearly some women are wise, some men are wise. So is all that talk about the sexes nonsense? Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? Is there such a thing as a feminine or masculine quality?
I think these days we are inclined to blur boundaries and fudge differences. Are we not all the same? Surely not. Is not one of the great beauties of creation the fact that we are different? Of course in all this we have to be compassionate with others and indeed with ourselves. It is so easy to hurt each other with our compulsion to label. We must be able to acknowledge how beautiful it can be, when we see the complementarity of the sexes.
The reality is that men and women bring different things to situations. I am not talking about silly stuff. I am not talking about the laziness, and indeed sometimes the violence, of stereotyping. Let’s dispense immediately with the Rocky/Rambo male and the tearful damsel in distress female. Thankfully it’s much richer than this.
I have to say my life, and in particular, my priesthood has been, and thankfully continues to be, greatly enriched by an array of good close friends of both sexes. A significant part of the blessing of these friendships lies in the variety of gifts that they bring to any situation.
I think we need to be careful of how we engage in the sacred story in Scripture. We need to be mindful of language, of context and culture and of the huge patriarchal backdrop to the events related therein. I cannot help but wonder what our church would be like today had we shared responsibility for it with our sisters? Given the huge richness that women would bring to every level in the Church, including governance, maybe especially governance, I find myself asking would we be in the mess we are in today?