A RADIANT ENCOUNTER
The animals entered the door in a mad rush, so as not to be noticed, which was not perhaps the most logical thing to do, but logic was not entirely what the whole adventure had been about; it was all about obeying God, and not worrying too much about the details. In a word it was all about trust, and the cats and dogs had limitless trust, and very little anxiety, whereas the humans were prone to a lot of anxiety and very little trust.
As the dogs and cats hurtled through the door, with the saints floating serenely behind them, they found that they had walked not into a brilliantly torchlit hall, which is what they had seen from the undergrowth, but a very dark room, but as their eyes became acclimatized to the darkness, they realized that it was not a room, but something more like the entrance to a cave. The entrance was large and the night sky was dark, though starlit. There was no moon, but there was a brilliant light somewhere overhead, like a brilliance of a very bright street lamp. At the right hand side of the room, as you were looking out at the night sky, there was a curtained area. The curtains rustled and out came a lovely young girl with a baby. “Ah” said Koni “it's Mary” in a hushed whisper. “I don’t understand” said Bushy “We were following Jesus to his trial.” “Nothing is quite what it seems.” said Molly. “Apparently so,” noted Tommy rather perplexed by it all. The animals were grouped in the opposite corner to Mary, and out of a sense of deep awe and respect they just looked, and looked, and looked. The curtains rustled again and there was Joseph all smiling and giving off a sense of great security and safety. He was quite different to how he appeared when he and John the Baptist and Mary Magdalen led them into Eden.
Suddenly there was a sound of singing coming from the distance. It was accompanied by harps and pipes. It was very beautiful and sounded like a litany. It got closer and louder, and the beautiful almost monotonous sounds made the dogs and cats feel quite exhilarated and it took all their self control not to start dancing. Then suddenly just over the brow of the hill came a great procession of people with mules, donkeys and camels. The three largest dromedaries carried three magnificent riders, all turbaned and glittering with precious jewels hanging from their great cloaks. “it’s the three kings” chirped Lily. “I think my dear that is rather stating the obvious.” said Lizzie. She did not say it in a condescending way, just in a very definite way. “I’m rather pleased that they are three.” Said Dolly. “Why?” asked Freddie. “Well it puts those scripture scholars in their place.” “Shouldn’t we be a bit more respectful?” suggested Sammy. “I think you’re quite right.” said Buffy in his nut brown sounding voice. “It’s so exciting, I can’t believe it’s happening.” whispered Yume so loudly that Mary and Joseph looked over at him, and they did what most people would not have done, they smiled beamingly at him. If Yume could have gone red, he would, but as he was a rather aristocratic Japanese dog, that would have been most inappropriate, and being a dog he couldn’t turn red anyway. “Hush” said Lizzie sounding like an old fashioned matron or nanny, "they’re here". “Ah it is so beautiful, so heavenly, so lovely.” exclaimed Contessina, and Lizzie, could not but agree.
The opening of the cave was now choc-a block with wonderfully dressed servants and slaves, and there, among them, were the three professors, but dressed in similar gorgeous clothes. The Jewish professor winked at the animals very conspiratorially, which was odd as there was nothing to be conspiratorial about, but perhaps he had not tumbled to the fact that the baby was the Messiah, and more to the point that he was the Son of God and God. The three kings got down from their camels. “Of course they’re not really kings are they?” asked Dolly. “I think” said Lizzie drawing herself up to her full height (She was rather an overweight cat.) “one would describe them as a mixture university professor, astrologer, and politician”. The Jewish Professor, responding to Lizzie's description of the Magi, gave an even more dramatic wink, while screwing his face up in contortions of gratified surprise, as Lizzie continued: “or perhaps an emir and a priest cum astrologer. I think that is better.” “That’s quite something, then?” Sammy said. “Precisely” replied Lizzie who looked very pleased with herself. “Oh it’s so wonderful” squealed Dolly with evident glee. “It’s more; it’s quite magical” said Molly in her rich velvety voice. For some strange reason, at this point in the proceedings, Bushy had his back to the entrance of the cave and was looking at a blank rock face. “Are you feeling alright?” inquired Koni in a motherly fashion as she breathed warmly over the old cat. “I was just thinking.” said Bushy, “How strange are the ways of Man, and how wonderful are the ways of God.” And with that he turned around, faced the entrance and started washing himself. “Really Bushy” said Lizzie reprimandingly. “This is not the time to be washing oneself.” “Well I’ve got to look my best” said Bushy. “Well I suppose you’re right.” said Lizzie in a world weary fashion. “Look” said Buffy, “imagine that; The Magi are asking the professors to help them with the gifts.” Sure enough this was true. The professors, were, needless to say, as proud as punch.
While all this had been going on Mary and Joseph had seated themselves on some low cushions and watched the arrival of the caravan with a mixture of humility and peace. Nothing seemed to surprise them. They simply waited as you might await your turn to see the doctor at the surgery, but this was so different. It was the atmosphere of peace that the couple gave off which was so consoling and reassuring.
The Magi were not at all like the Three Kings as seen in cribs. They did not have diadems or crowns, but were richly dressed, as was noted earlier. They were however, all three of them very tall, magnificent looking with almost white complexions and black hair, as black as the night, or the feathers of a raven, and with glittering black beards. They exuded great strength, and authority, but there was no hint of power. All their servants and slaves responded to them as sons to a father. There was a wonderful family feel about it all. Each of the Magi came forward carrying the main gift, but there were also other gifts to be presented. It was all done in silence, hardly a word was said. The first of the Kings, accompanied by the Jewish professor, came with a beautiful golden tray with golden goblets on it and gold chains and necklaces. He nodded to the professor who was laden down with great rolls of brocade and cloth of gold and ravishing silks. The professor came forward and placed the materials in front of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. He then stood aside. This Magus, who was the oldest of the three, stayed standing for a moment, and then drew aside to let the next Magus come with a great bowl of incense and a great silver thurible. He was accompanied by the Moslem Professor. He beckoned him to put some incense into the thurible, which he did and there was a great puff of smoke as the incense fell on the burning charcoal. This Magus, who was more thick set than the first and slightly smaller, then incensed Jesus, who was smiling broadly at him. Both Mary and Joseph smiled with great warmth at this act of veneration. The final Magus came with ebony boxes full of herbs with an ivory casket containing the myrrh. The Hindu professor was in charge of the boxes. All the gifts were placed with the gold of the first Magus at the feet of the Holy family.
Then something rather wonderful happened. All the servants and slaves fell to their knees as did the three professors, but the Magi bowed very deeply and then prostrated themselves before the Christ child. Lying full length before the Holy Family for well over a minute, they then got up and began to sing. The whole band of followers took up the song. The cats and dogs were utterly mesmerized by the music. Later when trying to describe it, Molly said that it was rather as if Thomas Tallis had written Spem In Alium using the quarter tones of the East. It was exhilarating, but it did not make you want to dance; it made you want to soar up into the sky and fly off into eternity. As the Magi sang with something akin to ecstasy, the tears of joy coursed down their cheeks and beards, and they looked almost like solemn children. It was a sight that the animals would never forget. It was worship in its most pure and wonderful form. The light of the star now flooded the cave, and caused Mary and Joseph and Jesus to glow. In fact all the caravan of followers, the camels, the donkeys, and the mules were all glowing, as were the sheep and the other animals in the entourage of the Magi. The song swelled louder and louder, and then stopped. There was silence. The vision vanished and there were the animals and the professors looking at Jesus calmly facing his accusers. The bright light of the hall, where the Sanhedrin had gathered, and the feeling of hatred in that place left the cats and dogs stunned. There was a moaning sound. It was Contessina moaning at the sight of the cold and dreadful eyes of Caiaphas fixed on Jesus with implacable hatred, and the cruel look in the eyes of his father-in-law, Annas.