While the Holy Family was returning to Bethlehem after the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, many miles from Judea a caravan of illustrious individuals was also travelling towards the City of David.
Coming from the Far East, some Magi, with their imposing entourage, were following a mysterious star whose emergence they contemplated on a dark and clear night. They came in search of the King of the Jews who had been born and who brought salvation to the whole world (cf. Mt 2:1-2).
Cold reception in the Holy City
When they arrived in Jerusalem, they forthrightly inquired as to where the monarch who had just been born could be found. Contrary to what might be imagined, Herod, together with all Jerusalem, was troubled by the news spread by this illustrious and noble caravan (cf. Mt 2:3).
Public opinion in the capital reacted with suspicion and mistrust: how could the Saviour have been born without their knowing it? No smaller was the question that presented itself to the Magi: should not the people chosen by God to receive the Messiah and introduce Him into the world rejoice at His coming?
Concealing his hatred, Herod secretly called the Magi to find out the details concerning the appearance of the star (cf. Mt 2:7). As they were unaware of his evil intentions, they enthusiastically told him of the prophecies they knew about the future King, and how his star had appeared in the firmament, a clear sign of the coming fulfilment of the predictions.
Having consulted the chief priests and the scribes, he sent them to Bethlehem, the city announced by Micah as the birthplace of the Messiah (cf. Mi 5:1). He also asked them to return to give him precise details about the Child, because, as he said, he also wanted to adore Him (cf. Mt 2:8) …
Surprised by the cold reception of the people of Jerusalem, the Kings set out for the City of David with a certain perplexity. At the very beginning of their journey, however, they again saw the star that shone in the East. Their hearts were filled with deep joy: it had not lied; it was there to guide them!
In a poor dwelling, shone the most sublime gala of history
It was a beautiful night, which seemed to herald one of the greatest dawns in history. The Magi realized that the luminous star was advancing towards a region situated to the south of Bethlehem. They followed it through a meadow until they spotted a poor but dignified dwelling; the star hovered over it.
It was in fact an Angel of the Lord1 who, in the form of light, led them to the house that sheltered the Holy Family.2 Thus, travelling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on a cold and starry night, they easily discovered the Child’s discreet abode.
Taken by grace, the Magi descended from their camels and greeted St. Joseph, who was waiting for them at the entrance, with the deference due to the most noble of princes. They asked his permission to enter the house with all due honours.
When he consented, they put on sumptuous cloaks over their luxurious robes, the best they had, laid out rugs of beautiful colours and shapes, lit censers and organized a solemn procession. “And going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His Mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2:11).
The pious attitude of the Magi is a good indication of the faith and righteousness that moved them. They arrive in Bethlehem, after long days under the scorching Middle Eastern sun, in search of the most glorious King of all time and find Him in a poor dwelling. Yet at no time do they experience the slightest hint of disappointment.
On the contrary, they enter the house with all solemnity and adore that frail Child who, nevertheless, let them see the radiance of divinity in His features and in His gaze. That night shone the most sublime gala in all history, never surpassed by the splendid Christian courts that later arose.
A Baby-God, all-powerful!
The Magi remained for some time kneeling, with their foreheads touching the ground, full of reverential fear. Our Lady greeted them with such kindness and gentleness that they drew close to Her and to the Child, overwhelmed with admiration, joy and fervour. This was the incomparable reward for their fidelity. An interior grace pervaded their hearts and revealed to them that this little one was God… what a paradox! A Baby-God, all-powerful!
Their eyes bathed in tears, they were able to transcend that infant body and have contact, in spirit, with the Word himself. And to complete the picture, Mary and Joseph were beside Him, as if transfigured, like two seraphim spreading their wings over that wondrous scene.
The hearts of the Magi had been worked by grace from the moment they had begun to wait for the appearance of the star. Above all, by the supplications of the Holy Family, a prophetic and supernatural sense was communicated to them which prepared them, during the long nights of their journey, to be in the presence of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit presented to those souls, docile to His voice, the vision of a new ideal, consisting of detachment and a spirit of poverty and sweetness, contrary to the worldly mentality of ancient times, which despised poverty as a sign of inferiority. Thus predisposed, when faced with simplicity, they manifested their exuberant, spontaneous and radiant adoration. In them shone brightly the faith that was not alight in Jerusalem, where Herod and the Jews lay in the darkness of selfishness and sin.
After partaking in that most blessed company for a few days, the Magi returned to their lands, their hearts filled with intense, luminous and noble joy. However, in view of the envy of the wicked, an Angel of the Lord warned them in their dreams to return without passing through Jerusalem (cf. Mt 2:12).
The Magi readily obeyed the Angel’s voice, for they had already discerned in their short interaction with Herod his fallacious and tyrannical spirit, capable of any imaginable violence in order to hold on to a throne which he had unjustly attained.
The departure of the Magi closes a chapter in the life of the Holy Family, filled with joy at the birth of the Child and with the most varied manifestations of reverence and adoration for Him. ◊
Taken, with adaptations, from:
São José: quem o conhece?… [St. Joseph: Who Knows Him?… ]
São Paulo: Lumen Sapientiæ, 2017, p.256-263
1 St. John Chrysostom states that it was “an invisible force that took on the appearance of a star. This is especially evidenced by the path it followed” (ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM. Homilías sobre el Evangelio de San Mateo. Hom.VI, n.2. In: Obras. 2.ed. Madrid: BAC, 2007, v.I, p.106). And St. Ignatius of Antioch observes: “Its light was inexpressible and its novelty admirable. All the stars, together with the sun and the moon, formed a choir around that star, and it projected its light more than all the others” (ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH. Lettre aux Éphésiens, c.XIX, n.2: SC 10, 75).
2 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiæ. III, q.36, a.7.