Glencairn Abbey Cards

Featured Card of the Day: Wise Men Found Him

Featured card of the day: Wise Men Found Him

Today’s featured card is C17, Wise Men Found Him.

This card is unusual, both in the style used to depict the Magi, and in the way the card opens – it does not open in the middle, but part-way across, so that the red panel on the extreme right of the card is always visible, whether the card is open or closed. It also makes the card wider than usual.

The red panel shows us the infant, asleep. The large star at the top represents God, or the heavens from which he came, and the perpendicular rays draw our eyes from the star down to Jesus, indicating the descent in humility which he took on at his birth in human form. The Magi “saw his star at its rising” (Mt 2:2) and came to worship him.

On the front left, three figures approach, painted in green, black and white. Other cards from this period (1970s?) show that at this time Sr Paula was experimenting with the concept of positive/negative or presence/absence in images. Here each of the figures is shown half in black, half in either green or white. one half of suggesting the other half. The figures are elongated, the depiction symbolic: straight lines suggest shoulders and feet, hands are not shown, facial features are absent except for small marks for eyes. Each one has a slightly different kind of crown, making them three different individuals; at the same time the crowns make these figures almost like chess pieces. In every way they are iconic rather than realistic. They bear three different kinds of container, which we know from St Matthew contain gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt 2:11).

The three figures are oriented towards the infant. The wise men came “from the east”. They travel from a distance, cleverly indicated by the extra-wide card – they have a long way to cover. And they travel not just horizontally across the page but also downwards, each one being slightly lower than the one behind. The journey to Jesus is a journey in humility; our coming to him involves self-abasement and becoming little like him.

The text “Wise Men Found Him” is also written with just one word on each line (like "Come Let Us Adore Him", C11), bringing our eyes down the page, another exercise in lowering ourselves, coming down to the level of the lowly infant. The dash after “Him” points straight across to Jesus, leaving us in no doubt about where our attention is to be focused.

The omission of the definite article is also interesting: Sr Paula has not written “The Wise Men…”, but simply “Wise Men…” There is a suggestion here that seeking and finding Jesus is not just for the three of whom St Matthew speaks, but of anyone wise, including ourselves. It is an invitation for us to be wise, and to seek and find the Lord.

So far, so good. But there is one tiny detail which, when examined, turns this into a most extraordinary card. Those lines emanating from the pillow on which Jesus’ head is lying – what are they? Here, Sr Paula has inserted a secret message.

Turn the card sideways, and this is what we get:

The now vertical line is the upright of a cross; the other lines are the cross-bar. And the sleeping infant becomes the crucified Christ, with his head bowed in the sleep of death.

The Wise Men’s journey is not just to the baby in Bethlehem; it is to the cross on Calvary. In this is wisdom; and this is where we too will find him.

The text inside the card reads “Christmas Joy” (in the same calligraphy as the text on the outside of the card). It is available only in English.

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