The Feast of the Magi
“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.’ When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’
After their audience with the king they set out. 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.’” (New American Bible, Matthew 2:1-12)
- Isn’t this the Feast of the Epiphany? Yes, it is. It’s also called the Feast of the Three Kings and is known by a few other names.
- Whatever happened to that feast? The Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the United States, the feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th.
- What does the term epiphany mean? According to Merriam Webster, the term epiphany is defined as “a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience”.
- What do we commemorate or remember on this day? On this feast, we commemorate the manifestation of Jesus to the whole world. Jesus is revealed to the magi who have come from the East bearing gifts and are the first individuals from the Gentile world to see or encounter the Savior of the world.
As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).” (#528)