The Magi’s Magis

“Magis” is a Latin adverb that roughly translates into English as “greater” or “more” or “higher degree.”  It was made popular as a noun (the more) by Jesuits that follow the spiritual path of their founder, Ignatius of Loyola, who challenged them to dive deeper, soar higher, and proceed with more fervor in daily endeavors.  It’s sort of like the Olympics’ proclamation as the universal torch is lit to begin the world games: citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger).  It is, essentially, a striving to do better.  But rather than being physical or material, Magis is spiritual.  It is a striving to become more the person God intends us to be.

The Magi—what Christians call Wise Men—were Eastern ecclesiastical royalty associated with magic and astrology.  They could take an ordinary thing and make it extraordinary; they could peer into darkness and follow light; they searched for greatness and strove for divine wisdom.  Led by a star, they searched for and found Christ so that they could proclaim Him to the world, like a blazing torch that radiates the continents.  Theirs was a long trek.  Sheltering from scorching heat by day and traveling in the cold dark of night, they covered dangerous terrain and endless deserts along their journey.  Like the protagonist of U2’s classic hit, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, they would go to any length: climb highest mountains, run through the fields, scale city walls, speak with the tongue of angels, and hold hands with the devil.  But unlike U2, these wise guys found what they were looking for.  Whereas most of us look for love, grace, and fulfillment in all the wrong places, they were steadfast in trusting the guiding light.

They knew where to look by realizing where not to look.  They didn’t look where many think that wise people should: in universities among the elite, or in temples among the clerics, or in palaces among powerful leaders.  Instead, they searched among the poor and lowly, the marginalized and outcasts, the innocent and humble.  It is, perhaps, a hint that neither will the wisest among us today find God amidst elitism, clericalism, or politics but within the ordinary.  Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, in finding what they sought, were elevated by a new revelation.  When they arrived in the presence of Christ, they bowed in adoration and presented Him with gifts of humanity, deity, and majesty (symbols of our life, death, and destiny in Him).  This Epiphany to them and to the nations inspired the Three Kings of Orient to rise again, this time to rise in splendor to an interior wisdom that was greater, higher, and deeper, so they could recognize the same miracle in other places and within other people—they rose to Magis.  In this way, they departed with new insights to Christ’s presence in common people of diverse cultures.  By engaging deeper in everyday encounters, they realized the humble status of God’s dwelling among us.

As we begin the journey of 2024, we make resolutions, mostly physical and material, to improve ourselves.  Usually when we do this, alone, we still won’t find what we’re looking for.  So, we might also consider a brighter, spiritual striving: to dive deeper into everyday encounters and rise to an elevated level in what we do with the gifts and talents entrusted to us. Maybe we will soar above the divisiveness of the ’24 presidential election.  Possibly we will get inspired by this year’s Olympians and achieve a great personal feat.  Perhaps we can also rise to greater wisdom in our relationships with one another and God.  My hope for this new year is that, in whatever good we do—as individuals, groups of three, or communities of faith, we will do it with Magis and that, like the Magi, we find what we’re looking for.  Then, in Christ’s presence, we can bow in adoration and rise again with an enlightened understanding to see the world anew and proclaim it by living with renewed awareness.