This year we had the opportunity to see the “Star of Bethlehem” or “Christmas Star.” It is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together. Did you see it? I missed it, but saw lots of pictures and read about it.
We are celebrating the Epiphany. The Magi, astrologers from Persia, follows the star and comes to the manger in Bethlehem, the city of David. Matthew also draws upon the Old Testament story of Balaam, who had prophesied that “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Nm 24:17), though there the star means not an astral phenomenon but the king himself.
The word Epiphany means a showing or manifestation of the Lord. Magi were eager to find and adore the true King: Child Jesus and offer gifts. They were not members of the Chosen Jewish People; tradition says that they were Persians.
The Church of Nativity is the oldest church in the Holy Land. I had an opportunity to visit this church a couple of years ago. In 613, the Persians invaded the Holy Land and destroyed all the churches, except the Church of Nativity. This church has a mosaic of the Magi, who were wearing Persian-style clothes. It seems like they had respect for their countrymen. Magi were the first Gentiles who recognized the kingship of Jesus.
God’s mercy is extended to all people, everywhere. St. Bernard was an 11th-century Cistercian monk. St. Bernard said that God sent to earth a bag bulging with his mercy, a bag that, at the passion, is torn open so that our ransom pours out of it onto us. It is a small bag, but a full one: for it was a small child that was given to us, but in him dwells the fullness of the Godhead. In St. Bernard image the infant Jesus as a little bag bulging with mercy.
Where did Magi enquire first in search of the newborn king? They went to the palace. Who else is likely to be there? King Herod and his family were there. But the Magi had to come to a cave or a stable to find a poor family, with animals and perhaps a few shepherds. Magi entered the manger and saw the child Jesus with Mary. They prostrated themselves and did him homage and offered the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The story of the Epiphany contradicts our intellectual concept. The Magi, the intellectual giants came to a stable and prostrated in adoration and offered the gifts of Gold, Incense, and Myrrh. It was a custom to have a gift when visiting a King. What was the meaning of these gifts? The gold is a gift for a king. Jesus was born in the family of David. The promise is fulfilled. Frankincense is the gift for the priest. The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The priest is the man who builds a bridge between men and God. Jesus opened the way for humanity to God. Myrrh, a spice used at the funeral. Jesus came to this world to die for us.
We see this episode in the first reading from the book of Isaiah. The prophet proclaims the blessing which to come to Zion, the return of her children, and the wealth of the nation. Specifically, we see Isaiah 60:6, Gentile nations bring gifts of gold and frankincense to God of Israel.
When Magi offered their the gift to Jesus, they were proclaiming Jesus was to be a true King, the perfect High Priest, and the Savior of humanity. On this Epiphany, let us take a moment to kneel down at the manger in adoration and give ourselves as a gift to Jesus.
Thank you: Thank you to everyone who took your time to decorate our Churches for Christmas; all those who donated trees, wreaths, flowers, and so on for the decoration; church cleaners, and everyone else who prepared our Churches so beautiful for Christmas! I would also like to thank musicians for the melodious music to beautify the Liturgy. Also, I would like to thank of all those who purchased gifts for our homebound, daycare and religious education families. Thank you, everyone!