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“We three kings of Orient are,

Bearing gifts we traverse afar…” is a popular song that refers to the visit of the ‘Magi from the east’ (Mt 2:1-12) to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. The term magos (μάγος) originally referred to a caste of Persian priests with special claim to interpret dreams. Here they appear as astrologers/astronomers who looked to the movement of the stars as a guide to major events. Where in the East they came from is not clear. The term magi suggests Persia, the practice of astrology indicates Babylon, while the gifts they bring point to Arabia or the Syrian desert. The transliteration ‘Magi’ has been retained and preferred because the modern alternatives are not accurate: ‘wise men’ is too generic, ‘kings’ inaccurate while ‘astrologers’ confusing for people today. It is nowhere said also that the visitors were three in number.

The idea that births and deaths of great figures were accompanied by astral phenomena was widely accepted in antiquity. In the Bible what can be considered the earliest mention of a star with reference to the coming of the Messiah is read in the Num 24:17: “I see him, though not now, I observe him though not near; a star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel. The Hebrew word is used metaphorically to refer to one who will emerge into the world stage like a rising star. One could find is a redemptive-historical link between this prophecy and that of Mt 2:2ff, with the dominant symbols of a messianic star, that star which the Magi saw rising from the east over Bethlehem announcing the birth of the Christ child. In Rev 22:16 Jesus himself said “I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star” affirming the complete fulfillment of the messianic “star” phenomenon, bringing to light the full revelation of that motif- in his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.

This visit of the Magi adds a new and central feature to the Christmas message. Considered as Epiphany, that is manifestation, Jesus is proclaimed here to the nations. Jesus is not solely the Jewish Messiah; he comes for the entire world. In Christ all barriers will fall. In Trito-Isaiah (60:1-6) Jerusalem looks out upon her own people returning from the diaspora but on far distant horizon appear caravans from.all parts of the world. While St. Paul (Eph 3:2-3,5-6) sees this as the great mystery now revealed in the final times: the total equality of Jew and Gentile in God’s plan. The account of the Magi summarizes it all in story form. While the Jews (Herod and “all Jerusalem”), with scriptural prophecies in hand remain apart, the foreigners move in faith in Bethlehem.

As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany may we understand that Jesus teaches us that there is no room for religious elitism, that in God’s eyes all are equal. And we are not to build roadblocks of any type. We are all co-heirs, co-members and co-partners. We are called to a classless society in a Christian sense. And let us pray: “O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy, that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory”. Amen.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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