Three Kings Bringing Precious Gifts

Three Kings Bringing Precious Gifts

Beate Heinen. Three Kings.

Heinen places the child Jesus at the centre of the image. Its arms are spread wide. As if it thereby indicates that everyone is welcome. Or is it a gesture pointing ahead to the end of his life, his death on the cross? He is completely alone; his parents, Joseph and Mary are not there. No ox and donkey either, no shepherds and no sheep. Even the lowly shelter is invisble. Only the star is there. The sky turns blue, red and yellow: cold, warm and filled with the divine secret. To emphasize his defenselessness and innocence, the divine child is portrayed naked. Vulnerable, exposed.

The child is surrounded by the three wise men. Each with a crown on his head. They bring their gifts. On the left in the forefront the youngest arrives with his school report in his hands: ‘Zeugnis’.Ungenügend,’ it says: ‘insufficient’. That is what he has to offer to the child.

The wise man in the middle approaches from the right. He comes with a cup showing an ugly crack. Perhaps made of gold, but nonetheless useless and unusable. The eldest comes into the picture from behind. He takes off his mask of cheerfulness. Behind it appears a face furrowed with sadness and grief. This mask: that is his gift.

All three are turned towards the child. And the child faces me, the viewer. As if to say: “Where is your gift?” Matthew writes in his gospel that the magi offered “precious gifts.” Heinen suggests that my most precious gifts consist of what is not right in my life: the failures, the cracks, the hidden grief. That these three have come to offer just that. Is that why she has put a crown on their heads?


Greek Orthodox Hymn

Today You appeared to the world,
and Your light, O Lord,
has left its mark upon us
as in fuller understanding
we sing to You:
“You came,
You were made manifest,
the unapproachable light.”


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