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Epiphany of the Lord: Shining star light for all peoples

From the earliest days of the Church, the magi were one of the favourite themes of the scene of the Nativity. 
But too many details are missing in the Gospel narration: Where did they come from? How many were there? What were their names? And many more…
To answer these questions, many legends were born. It was said that they were kings. They were three: one came from Africa, one from Asia and one from Europe. 
Guided by the star, they met at the same point and then they walked together on the last stretch of the journey to Bethlehem. They were called Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. 
It is a pleasant and touching story, but must be kept distinct from the Gospel narrative.  First, it was not said that there were three, or that they were kings. They were magi known for their wisdom, ability to interpret dreams and predict the future. 
Matthew has introduced the magi in his story as a symbol of all the pagans that, they were receptive to the light of Christ even before the Jews.
Regarding the star, it was believed that the birth of a great person was accompanied by the appearance in the sky of his star: big for the wealthy, tiny for the poor, blurry for the weak. 
The evangelist writes for readers who are familiar with the Old Testament who are waiting to see the appearance of a star mentioned in a mysterious prophecy in the book of Numbers. 
It tells the prophesy of Balaam, a soothsayer, a magus of the East. “I see it but it is not an event that will happen shortly; I behold him but not near. A star shall come forth from Jacob, a king, born of Israel, rises…” 
This prophecy was about 1200 years before the birth of Jesus. Since then, the Israelites began to anxiously wait for the rising of this star that was none other than the Messiah himself.
Presenting to us the wise men of the East who see the star, the evangelist wants to tell his readers: from the descendant of Jacob the expected deliverer rose. It is Jesus. He is the star.
Should we then remove the star from our cribs? No! Let us contemplate the star and point it also to our children, but we must explain to them that the star is not a star in the sky, but it is Jesus. He is the light that enlightens every person (John 1:9). He is the brilliant morning star (Revelation 22:16).
Guided by the light of the Messiah, the Gentiles (represented by the magi) make their way to Jerusalem, to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold indicates the recognition of Jesus as king; incense represents the adoration in front of his divinity; myrrh recalls his humanity—this fragrant resin will be remembered during the passion.
Unlike the shepherds who contemplated and rejoiced in front of the manger, the magi prostrated themselves in worship—the prostration and kissing of the feet of the king—or kissing the ground before the image of the deity. Nobody is so rich as not to need anything and not so poor as not having anything to offer.
Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications