The Epiphany: The Magi and the Christmas Star

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Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

The Oxford Dictionaries defines “ephiphany” (with a small “e”) as “a moment of sudden revelation or insight” and “a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being”. The word “Epiphany” (with a capital “E”) refers to “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi”.

Today is the great feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi — an event that had been foretold in Isaiah 60:1-6 some 800 years befre the birth of Christ.

Isaiah 60:1-6

Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you….
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you….
Then…the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.

The Magi were wise men — non-Hebrew pagans from the East. Bearing gifts fit for a king — those of gold, frankincense, and myrrh — their coming to Jerusalem to pay homage to “the king of the Jews” shows that they seek in the messianic light of the Christmas star, the one who will be king of all nations.

It is noteworthy that the first creatures to see the newborn Jesus were his human parents, Mary and Joseph; angels on high; humble farm animals; lowly shepherds; and Gentiles — the Magi.

The Epiphany, therefore, signifies the manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and Savior of the world — not just the Old Testament‘s oft-prophesied messiah of the Jews. God is not a tribal deity, exclusive to only the so-called “chosen people”. Jesus the Christ came for Jews and Gentiles. He came for all of us, no matter our race, gender, language, country, or creed.

As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians 3:6:

[T]he Gentiles are coheirs,
members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise
in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Noteworthy also is the fact that the Magi, as the first Gentiles to find Jesus, were also the first Gentiles to receive His salvific grace. As recounted in Matthew 2:12:

And having been warned in a dream
not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country
by another way.

By the way, astronomers, using software programs reproducing the night sky exactly as it was thousands of years ago, have determined there really was a Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem. David Reneke, news editor of Australia’s Sky and Space Magazine, said: “We found out something startling. It looks like the ‘Christmas star’ really did exist.”

It’s generally accepted by most researchers that Christ was born between 3 BC and 1 AD. On 12 August, 3 BC, Jupiter and Venus appeared very close together just before sunrise, appearing as bright morning stars. It would have been visible in the eastern dawn sky of the Middle East from about 3:45 to 5:20 a.m.

But it didn’t stop there. The crowning touch came ten months later, on 17 June 2 BC, Venus and Jupiter joined up again in the constellation Leo. This time the two planets were so close that, without the use of our modern optical aids, they would have looked like one single, brilliant star.

Venus is known as the planet of love; Jupiter as the planet of kings; and Leo denotes royalty and power.

See these other cases of science confirming Biblical accounts:

May the joy of the Epiphany and the peace and love of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, be with you!


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7 responses to “The Epiphany: The Magi and the Christmas Star

  1. Thank you, Dr. Eowyn, for a really great post. Yes, who saw Jesus the Newborn first? His human parents, the angels, the animals, and then, later on, the Magi.

    Who were these Magi? And where in “the East” were they really from? Who told or inspired them to follow that “star?” All excellent questions, which seem, to me, to be unknown to us.

    And your mention of the astronomy involved is also important: In a reply to a recent post on FOTM, I said that some have believed that “Jupiter and Saturn may have been in conjunction, appearing to be a star” (or words to that effect.) Well, at least I got Jupiter right. The main point is that, to what extent can the phenomenon be empirically traced back. But then there is another question: Our calendar is not the one that was in use at that time; A monk (I forgot his name) did the work on that via historical investigation, and I have been told that he may have been about seven years off. At any rate, these things CAN be investigated and charted, and it matters for this reason: As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has stated in his biography of Christ, this was, along with Isiah, a proof, or at least a presentation of, the Savior’s credentials to a fallen world.

    In any event, the chronology of Yeshua Bar Joseph, Our Lord and Savior Jesus, can be traced via empirical (or epistemological?) means, in this case, astronomy, and these findings can be compared to previous pronouncements of His Coming, as has been done in the Book of Isiah. So the question for the atheists and the agnostics, in part, is this: How much proof are you going to demand? Or, have you heathen made up your mind that no amount of proof shall ever satisfy your demands?

    The early Fathers of the Church made every effort they could to denude the Story of Christ of every last trace of myth, folklore and legend connected to the Life of Jesus and the Apostles and how Christianity spread. As a (poor excuse for a) Catholic, I lament my inability to get more information on this, given the mess I’ve been in for the past few months.

    But as Fr. Sheen has stated, in his books, sermons and television shows, Our Lord was so important to history that He split time in two: There is the Era “Before Christ,” and there is the Era since He Arrived, “Anno Domini” (now cynically referred to as BCE, “Before the Common Era!”)

    This is the Feast of the Epiphany. Related to this word are the words “metanoia” and “kerygma.” Buddha’s name means “the man who woke up.” We can look at it as getting “red-pilled.” I have found that this is the most difficult thing in life, but something obviously worth pursuing. I have been finding out that I am my own worst enemy in this regard. I have also been finding out that giving up is not an option. Our Lord has found it necessary to intervene in human history, and He freely Chose to take on our own human nature! This can mean only one thing: Christianity is the ONLY true religion in all of human history! There can be no substitute!

  2. Thank you Dr Eowyn for this lovely and special lesson. I particularly love the fact that you gave us the dictionary definitions, and when to capitalize the word. Very inciteful both spiritually and temporally.

  3. My family and I talked about this when they were here on Christmas Eve. I believe the Magi were Persians who had studied the prophecies of Daniel, and knew the timing for the Messiah’s birth was getting close. Daniel prophecied that He would be “cut off”, but He had to be born first. The book of Daniel gave the exact date that the Messiah would be declared the King of the Jews, which was Palm Sunday, and He was cut off just days later. The Magi knew the star they saw was the evidence that it was indeed time for His birth, and they followed it until they found Him. The Jews also knew the prophecies of Daniel, but they either weren’t watching for the arrival of their Messiah or, like King Herod, had no intention of accepting Jesus as King. They proclaimed later that they would not have “this man” to rule over them. Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees that they had killed all the prophets. Which brought up another question that my family and I discussed: Did the Scribes and Pharisees know that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and killed Him so He couldn’t rule over them? I used to think it was that they didn’t recognize Him for who He really was, but I now believe they did know, and wanted Him gone anyway. Did they think they were so special that God would just send them another Messiah that was more to their liking? The Scribes and Pharisees had the same prophecies of Daniel that the Magi had, so they most certainly should have known the time of their visitation, as Jesus said to them.

    It also appears that the Jews finagled their calendar by approximately 245 years in order to cause the 70 weeks of Daniel to point to Simon Bar Kochba instead of Jesus.

  4. Thank You Dr, E….this means so much to me, as my family celebrated the Epiphany as the “true” day of exchanging gifts in the name of the Chist Child…(“Christmas” was something else—the birth of the Christ Child generally observed in church & w/family meal, family gathering, family midnight church ceremony on Eve before SAINT Nicholas threw his gift (historic) down the chimney….or…in the case of other relatives….deposited fruit/nuts(or coal) in our shoes set outside the door)….. But, being as my elders are all deceased now, & the rest of us are spread all over the country….very few in my family now follow these traditions. STILL, b/c of this, it irritates the crap out of me here in CA when people put up a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving & throw it to the curb the day after Christmas….meaning, they have NO IDEA abt the Epiphany….they are WalMart Christians…or something like that.


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