The Feast of the Epiphany (from the greek, Epiphanein, to show, to reveal) of the Lord celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, whose birth became the vehicle of the good news to the three magi from the east as recorded in Mt. 2:1-12 same Gospel story for the three year lectionary cycle.
Who are the “Magi”? They’re gentiles, foreigners, pagans-spiritual-believed in gods, not in the one God, though. The word “magus” can mean many things in different places: magicians, sorcerers, astronomers, astrologers, fortunetellers (not sure if it applies to the fortune cookies thrown on the table in a chinese restaurant). But, Matthews refers to them as astronomers whose job is to watch the movement of the stars más o menos 24/7. They are interpreters of dreams, advisers, counselors and consultants to the king, highly- skilled people, the elite, VIP’s on their right, weird- looking, and knowledgeable in almost all things. Nowadays, because of the easy access to communication, if you want to know anything, just type it in Google search bar or go directly to wikipedia or if it’s something romantic as may have been the case, check out the daily horoscope online or printed, make sure you know your zodiac sign, or pick up the phone and dial the 1-800-delilah. In the ancient of days, seekers go the Magi. Consultation may not be free but you can ask them about anything under the sun. They’re men of holiness and wisdom, no doubt about that. Given their resume, they would have been the last group of people to take off and follow the guidance of the star.
In an unusual moment, they probably noticed something extraordinary in the constellation as recorded in the Gospel and were unexpectedly prompted by a strange supernatural star appearing in the heavens. They entertained it, pursued and checked it out, packed their things for the adventure of a lifetime and traveled for only God knows how long it took them to arrive at Jerusalem, a light to all nations, from a distant country after a journey of a thousand miles until it rested on the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, bringing with them expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
It is an ancient custom that if someone wants to visit a dignitary, such as a state visit to the Vatican or elsewhere, gift is almost a must. When the president of Argentina visited his holiness, although they were at odds on some touchy social issues, she brought him mate. Similarly, when the Russian President Vladimir Putin came to see Pope Francis at the Vatican, he presented him the icon of the Madonna as a gift.
It is said that the three Magi represented generations, races and cultures. I don’t think I’ll be able to identify them by their appearances as they look the same. Melchor brought Jesus gold, the most precious of metals, fitting for a king. Caspar carried frankincense, a very expensive perfume used for divine worship and Balthasar, myrrh, an exotic spice for his humanity. We may not have the above luxurious and costly gifts and treasures brought by the three magi, but our presence in the church every Sunday, in praise and thanksgiving, our respect and reverence is enough to show the tiny baby we’re greatly delighted to see him.
Just like them, as pilgrims to the manger who “went home by another way, regresaron a su tierra por otro camino” Mt. 2: 12, we have already received the revelation and found it in a stable in whatever status and circumstances in life. But, if there’s any difference between them and us, the sad truth is that we keep going back to Herod, to our former way of life, to the life we have supposedly left behind in exchange of the discovery of the most sublime truth and faith in the newborn king. The three magi modeled for us the first of its kind, belief starts with worship.
Jesús nació en Belén de Judá, en tiempos del rey Herodes. Unos magos de Oriente llegaron entonces a Jerusalén y preguntaron: “¿Dondé está el rey de los judíos que acaba de nacer? Porque vimos surgir su estrella y hemos venido a adorarlo”. Mt. 2:1-2
“Entraron en la casa y vieron al niño con María, su madre, y postrándose, lo adoration” Mt. 2:11.
Finally, let me end this short reflection by quoting what my former mentor Fr. Denis Surban, hiding under an alias, posted in fb…It may not look and sound appropriate but the content is hard to miss. Could this be what the magi sang when they arrived in the manger?
Wise Men say… only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you…Take my hand, take my whole life, too but I can’t help falling in love with you…Amen.