The Wise Men travel

A Meditation on

‘The Journey of the Magi’

James Tissot was a successful portrait painter of fashionable Parisian ladies when in 1885, at the age of almost 50, he rediscovered his Catholic faith. For the rest of his days, Tissot devoted himself to depicting the life of Christ, completing a series of 350 watercolours. This quest took him all over Palestine to capture the realism of biblical scenes. Some paintings seemed so life-like that, at exhibitions of his work in New York and Paris, visitors were moved to tears. Some fell to their knees. The painting below helps us understand something of the impact of Tissot’s paintings.


Here we see the magi, majestic in their saffron robes. The trailing baggage train conveys how far they have come, and the difficulty of the terrain. We sense the urgency and insistence of their quest: time is running short. The observer may feel dwarfed by these mounted figures, for they seem to be advancing directly towards us with their pressing question… ‘Where is the Child?’

How may we direct them?

This work of art may reflect something of the twists and turns of Tissot’s own personal spiritual journey… and of ours, perhaps.

Through what adventures have we come in our search for the Christ-child?

Where, for us, has his star come to rest?