Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
Amongst the many biblical narratives, the story of the magi from the east has caught the imagination and has stimulated so much research and reflection for many people. In fact, if we make a survey even of contemporary nativity scenes (belen) put up for the holidays, we would notice that second to the holy family, the magi would more likely be seen than the shepherds themselves. Perhaps, the idea of kings visiting the newborn of Mary has given the Christmas story some mythical, fairy tale ambiance that would categorize the birth of the Savior to the genre of the Walt Disney stories of princesses, princes, and unicorns.
But the story of the magi is not some mythical account that entertains, it is, in fact, a wonderful portrayal of a Divine Mystery that reveals itself to the pagan nations. The magi were “members of the Persian priestly caste. In Hellenistic culture, they were regarded as ‘rulers of a distinctive religion,’ but at the same time their religious ideas were thought to be ‘strongly influenced by philosophy’ so that the Greek philosophers have often been portrayed as their pupils…Aristotle himself spoke of the philosophical work of the magi.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives, 92-93.) What we have here are serious searchers, “people of inner unrest, people of hope, people on the lookout for the true star of salvation…(they) were not just astronomers. They were ‘wise’. They represent the inner dynamic of religion toward self transcendence, which involves a search for truth, a search for the true God and hence ‘philosophy’ in the original sense of the word. Wisdom, then, serves to purify the message of ‘science’: the rationality of that message does not remain at the level of intellectual knowledge, but seeks understanding in its fullness, and so raises reason to its loftiest possibilities.” (Ibid., 95) “They represent the religions moving toward Christ, as well as the self-transcendence of science toward him. In a way, they were the successors of Abraham who set off on a journey in response to God’s call. In another way, they are the successors of Socrates and his habit of questioning above and beyond conventional religion toward the higher truth. In this sense, these figures are forerunners, preparers of the way, seekers after truth…” (Ibid.)
The movement of the magi towards Christ ought to teach us of the authentic search for wisdom. Today the pursuit for truth is done apart from Christ. False intellectuals call it intellectual freedom. I call it slavery to lies. For how can truth be pursued apart from Christ? Christ himself is the Truth. He himself is the Light. Apart from him, there is nothing but darkness. Self-seeking intellectualism goes nowhere. It goes round and round because it is a self-enclosed search. Eventually, it falls into superstition. Science must be self-transcendent if it must lead somewhere significant. It must be open to the reality above it. True science, true philosophy leads to Christ. In Christ all search for truth finds fulfillment.
And so, guided by a star, they came to adore the Christ. St. “Gregory Nazianzen says that at the very moment when the Magi adored Jesus, astrology came to an end, as the stars from then on traced the orbit determined by Christ.” (Ibid., 101) Christ has conquered all the powers and forces in the heavens. He reigns over the entire universe. “It is not the star that determines the child’s destiny; it is the child that directs the star.” This dominion of Christ over the entire universe drives us to the point that all searches in the universe will lead to Christ. Science, so long as it is purely intent on searching for the truth, will always lead to Christ. “God’s truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world. God, who alone ‘made heaven and earth,’ can alone impart true knowledge of every created thing in relation to himself.” (CCC, 216)
Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!