2 months, 2 weeks ago #29071
Behold, the Lord, the Mighty One, has come; and kingship is in his grasp, and power and dominion. ~Entrance Antiphon
Reading 1: Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13
Reading 2: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
You will notice a couple of things about this day. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” traditionally ended with Epiphany which is the 12th day, but you will notice in the Catholic calendar that the week afterwards is still part of Christmas for a Catholic. You will see the days listed in the lectionary as “the Tuesday after Epiphany” etc, which leads us up to next Sunday which is The Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of week 1 in Ordinary Time. Have you taken your Christmas decorations down yet? I haven’t, and I won’t until next week. It is not that I am legalistic about it, rather that I really enjoying put them up as close to Christmas as possible, thereby not robbing Advent of its full meaning, and then enjoying Christmas long after the world has forgotten about it. To my way of thinking, that is a secret privilege that we Catholics have and I enjoy every moment of it!
Our Gospel today leaves aside Luke which is the Gospel of Year C and quotes from Matthew which is the only Gospel that tells the story of the Wise Men. It is an interesting story and a very colourful one in many ways. The identity of these men remains a bit of a mystery, but their intentions do not. Several commentaries mention that they were the first Gentiles or pagans to acknowledge the kingship of Christ. Another mentions that while the shepherds represented the poor and ill educated, the Magi represented the intellectuals of the day. They were more than likely astrologers from Persia which would explain their interest in an extraordinary star. The Catechism says in paragraph 528:
528 “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that ‘the full number of the nations’ now takes its ‘place in the family of the patriarchs’, and acquires Israelitica dignitas (is made ‘worthy of the heritage of Israel’).”
Somehow in their training they recognized that this new King was not just a regional phenomenon, but rather of international significance. I have no idea how they knew that. It is part of the mystery of the Magi. According to commentaries, Christ was born near the end of the reign of Herod the Great (37-4 BC). Herod’s appearance in the story is in strong contrast with the birth of the Son of David. The Jews hated the Herodian dynasty because Herod, a non-Jew, had been appointed by the Romans to be their man in Judea. He was in their pocket. Is it any wonder that Herod became so agitated when the Wise Men announced that they had come to visit a newborn King of the Jews. He was under no allusion in regard to his popularity and so this threat to his reign had to be squashed.
There has been much discussion over the years about the nature of this “star”. There have been hypotheses over the years that it was a conjunction of planets or perhaps a comet, but the word used is single rather than plural. Also the language of verse 9 seems to imply that the star had a very specific action and purpose according to the Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Most Catholics accept that the star was a special creation for the occasion. Again, the above commentary says that the language of Matthew “literally interpreted, gives the impression of a light visibly advancing southwards ” away from Jerusalem and Herod and heading south towards Bethlehem.
The timing of the visit is generally agree to be within Christ-child’s first year. It was certainly after the Rite of Purification mentioned in Luke 2:33-38 which would have taken place 40 days after Jesus’ birth and probably not more than a year after his birth. Using the massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem as its guide, the Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture explains:
“Bethlehem and district (the term excludes neighbouring villages, cf. RB 8  422; 9  435) had a population of about 1,000 (now over 7,000) which, allowing for the high infant-mortality rate, would bring the number of children of two years and under to about 20. The age of the victims indicates that the star had appeared not more than two years before — probably about one year, Herod callously leaving a safety-margin on either side. ~Excerpt From: Bernard Orchard, et al. “A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture NT.” Apple Books.
Matthew tells us that the Wise Men fall down and adore the child presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh which are probably products of their native land and are brought as gifts to a new king. There is a suggestion again from several commentaries that the gold is for a king, the incense for God, and the myrrh – used for burials – is for a human. It is amazing to think that non-Jews, mere pagans, were used in such an amazing way and for such an amazing purpose as this. Their gifts are close to prophecies in themselves.
There is a lovely tradition on Epiphany of “chalking the door” of a Catholic home to bless it for the upcoming year. On that day you can chalk on the door or above it on the lintel the the year and the letters C M and B. It will look like this: + 20 C M B 19 + The small plusses are crosses, the numbers are the new year, and the letters stand for two things. Firstly, they stand for the traditional names of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Secondly, they are the abbreviation for the Latin phrase Christus Mansionem Benedicat, “May Christ bless the house”. You can find more information about this tradition here http://www.carmelites.net/news/chalking-door-2018-epiphany-house-blessing/2 months, 2 weeks ago #29072
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
There has been much discussion over the years about the nature of this “star”. There have been hypotheses over the years that it was a conjunction of planets or perhaps a comet, but the word used is single rather than plural. Also the language of verse 9 seems to imply that the star had a very specific action and purpose according to the Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Most Catholics accept that the star was a special creation for the occasion.
Over the past several years, I have been watching a movement returning to the traditional understanding of a number of things relating to the birth and infancy of Jesus. One of these is that December 25 is indeed the date of his birth, and this can be determined not only by ancient tradition, but also by several references to events related in sacred Scripture. Another, and more to the point this week, has to do with the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Magi to the very house of Joseph and Mary, where Jesus was awaiting them.
I spoke of this a couple of weeks ago in the new Community area as follows:
As to the Star of Bethlehem, a multiplicity of astronomical (and astrological) theories have been suggested, attempting to show the star as a natural, physical phenomenon. An entirely different approach, however, which rests on centuries of Christian tradition, is that a celestial phenomenon could not show the Magi the exact house where the King of the Jews resided. In addition, the star was clearly visible without regard to the weather or the time of day, something not characteristic of ordinary stars. Furthermore, the star was only visible to the Magi, and that only when they needed its guidance. Therefore, it had to be something — or someone — near to the earth which could hover manifestly over that house as a beacon visible only to those for whom it was intended; otherwise, it would arouse suspicion. St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the 13th century (Summa Theologica 3.36.7), concludes that it was a brightly shining angel.
David2 months, 2 weeks ago #29073
I like St Thomas’s conclusion! I really, REALLY like it!
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