The Gift of the Fourth Wise Man

How many Magi visited the Holy Family? We don’t actually know, because Scripture doesn’t specify exactly. Tradition tells us there were three because Scripture mentions three gifts they brought: gold, frankincense and myrrh. But legend speaks of a fourth. Here is his story.

Far to the east of the sea, lived a small group of men known to be wise. They had studied the teachings of their forebears and watched the signs of nature, intuiting hidden secrets discovered only by those patient and watchful enough to see them. But no matter how much they learned, they still thirsted for more. It was as if true wisdom was still veiled, hidden, from their sight. They felt they were closest to this eternal wisdom at night when they could watch the stars. When the world was covered in silent darkness, the stars seemed to be pinpricks in the fabric of creation, letting through the true light of wisdom.

Four of these men were assembled together one night, as was their custom, on the roof of a house. Suddenly, something caught their attention - a star, brighter than the rest. But not just any star, they knew in their hearts. THE STAR. Someone very great, a king, had risen in the world, and they felt compelled to follow it and do him homage. So they prepared for the long, arduous journey, not knowing exactly where they would end up or how long it would take. Along with all their provisions, they packed gifts fit for a king, priceless treasures. And off they went.

But as they traveled, they met poor and desperate people along the way. And the fourth wise man’s heart was moved with deep compassion for them, and he began to give away his treasures and possessions. His friends smiled and shook their heads, and his heart was lightened at the joy in the faces of those whose suffering he was able to relieve.

Then, the star stopped! They had arrived! As his friends unpacked their gifts, the fourth wise man was grief-stricken and sorrowful - he had given everything away! His treasures, all his provisions, he had nothing to present to this great king! This was an immense sign of disrespect in his culture, but he simply could not turn back now. His heart held a great yearning to see this new king. And so, with head lowered and heart heavy, he followed his friends into the little house. Each of the first three presented their gifts and did him homage: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Kingly and priestly gifts indeed. The room was still as everyone turned to the fourth Magi. He could not bear to raise his head but simply stepped forward and held out his arms to show their emptiness. Tears welled up and began to stream down his cheeks as he stumbled over the words to explain.

But before he could say anything, his empty arms were suddenly weighed down with a soft, sturdy bundle. He blinked away the tears and the face of a tiny baby, nestled in blankets, came into focus. And as he looked deep into the infant eyes looking up at him intently, he saw the light of the stars.