Sunday, January 2, 2011

the magi

The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word Magi is of Latin and Greek origin meaning the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born and refers to the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism.  As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science.  Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.  Tradition has it that on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, we celebrate the Epiphany, when three kings, or noble men of different origin from the East, visited Jesus in the manger.  According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi found Jesus by following his star, known as the Star of Bethlehem.  Their names were Melchior, Casper and Balthasar.
The Magi are described as falling down, kneeling or bowing in the worship of Jesus.  This gesture had an important effect on Christian religious practices.  They were indicative of great respect and typically used when venerating a king; hence, kneeling has remained an important element of Christian worship to this day.  On finding Jesus, they gave him three symbolic gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. All three gifts are ordinary offerings and gifts given to a king; myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume and gold as a valuable.  The three gifts have a spiritual meaning:  gold as a symbol of kingship on earth and virtue, frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of priestship and prayer, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death and suffering.  It has been suggested by scholars that the gifts were medicinal rather than precious material for tribute.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"  Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage."  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.   Matthew 2: 1-12

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Sounds through the earth and skies.

O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

God's promises are like the stars ~  the darker the night, the brighter they shine.  David Nichols

When it is darkest, men see the stars.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

When love is lost, do not bow your head in sadness, instead keep your head up high and gaze at the stars, for that is where your broken heart has been sent to heal.  xo