SOURCE : http://jesusmarie.free.fr/bible_crampon_matthieu.html
1 Lève-toi, et resplendis ! Car ta lumière paraît, et la gloire de Yahweh s'est levée sur toi.
2 Voici que les ténèbres couvrent la terre, et une sombre obscurité les peuples; mais sur toi Yahweh se lève, et sa gloire se manifeste sur toi.
3 Les nations marchent vers ta lumière, et les rois vers la clarté de ton lever.
4 Lève tes regards autour de toi, et vois: Tous se rassemblent, ils viennent à toi ; tes fils viennent de loin, et tes filles sont portées sur les bras.
5 Tu le verras alors, et tu seras radieuse; ton coeur tressaillira et se dilatera ; car les richesses de la mer se dirigeront vers toi, les trésors des nations viendront à toi.
6 Des multitudes de chameaux te couvriront, les dromadaires de Madian et d'Epha; tous ceux de Saba viendront, ils apporteront de l'or et de l'encens, et publieront les louanges de Yahweh.
Livre d’ISAÏE, LX : 1-6
SOURCE : http://jesusmarie.free.fr/bible_crampon_isaie.html
72 De Salomon.
O Dieu, donne tes jugements au roi,
et ta justice au fils du roi.
2 Qu'il dirige ton peuple avec justice,
et tes malheureux avec équité !
3 Que les montagnes produisent la paix au peuple,
ainsi que les collines, par la justice.
4 Qu'il fasse droit aux malheureux de son peuple,
qu'il assiste les enfants du pauvre,
et qu'il écrase l'oppresseur !
5 Qu'on te révère, tant que subsistera le soleil,
tant que brillera la lune, d'âge en âge !
6 Qu'il descende comme la pluie sur le gazon,
comme les ondées qui arrosent la terre !
7 Qu'en ses jours le juste fleurisse,
avec l'abondance de la paix,
jusqu'à ce qu'il n'y ait plus de lune
8 Il dominera d'une mer à l'autre,
du Fleuve aux extrémités de la terre.
9 Devant lui se prosterneront les habitants du désert,
et ses ennemis mordront la poussière.
10 Les rois de Tharsis et des îles paieront des tributs;
les rois de Saba et de Méroé offriront des présents.
11 Tous les rois se prosterneront devant lui ;
toutes les nations le serviront.
12 Car il délivrera le pauvre qui crie vers lui,
et le malheureux dépourvu de tout secours.
13 Il aura pitié du misérable et de l'indigent,
et il sauvera la vie du pauvre.
SOURCE : http://jesusmarie.free.fr/bible_crampon_psaumes_1_90.html
1 A cause de cela, moi Paul, le prisonnier du Christ pour vous, païens…
2 puisque vous avez appris la dispensation de la grâce de Dieu qui m'a été donnée pour vous,
3 comment c'est par révélation que j'ai eu connaissance du mystère que je viens d'exposer en peu de mots.
4 Vous pouvez, en les lisant, reconnaître l'intelligence que j'ai du mystère du Christ.
5 Il n'a pas été manifesté aux hommes dans les âges antérieurs, comme il a été révélé de nos jours par l'Esprit aux saints apôtres et prophètes de Jésus-Christ.
6 Ce mystère, c'est que les Gentils sont héritiers avec les Juifs, et membres du même corps et qu'ils participent à la promesse de Dieu en Jésus-Christ par l'Evangile,
7 dont je suis devenu ministre selon le don de la grâce de Dieu qui m'a été accordée par son opération toute-puissante.
8 C'est à moi, le moindre de tous les saints, qu'a été accordée cette grâce d'annoncer parmi les Gentils la richesse incompréhensible du Christ,
9 et de mettre en lumière, aux yeux de tous, l'économie du mystère qui avait été caché depuis le commencement en Dieu, le Créateur de toutes choses,
10 afin que les principautés et les puissances dans les cieux connaissent aujourd'hui, à la vue de l'Eglise, la sagesse infiniment variée de Dieu,
11 selon le dessein éternel qu'il a réalisé par Jésus-Christ Notre-Seigneur,
12 en qui nous avons, par la foi en lui, la hardiesse de nous approcher de Dieu avec confiance.
13 C'est pourquoi je vous prie de ne pas vous laisser décourager à cause des afflictions que j'endure pour vous : elles sont votre gloire.
Lettre de saint PAUL Apôtre aux Éphésiens, III : 1-13
SOURCE : http://jesusmarie.free.fr/bible_crampon_ephesiens.html
Les croyants s’offrent eux-mêmes
Les mages virent l’enfant avec Marie sa mère, c’est-à-dire le Fils de Dieu, notre Seigneur, dans son Église. Et, tombant à ses pieds, ils se prosternèrent devant lui : ils savaient qu’il était venu dans un corps pour les hommes. Ils ouvrirent leurs coffrets et lui offrirent leurs présents : de l’or, de l’encens et de la myrrhe : ils lui offrirent de l’or comme signe de royauté, de l’encens en tant que Dieu, de la myrrhe parce qu’il devait souffrir et être enseveli pour le salut des hommes. C’est pourquoi, puisque les mages figurent les croyants issus des nations, leurs présents figurent ceux que nous pouvons offrir à notre tour. Les croyants issus des nations ont ainsi subi le martyre, qui, comme l’or, est éprouvé par le feu. Selon nous, ceux qui s’offrent eux-mêmes en sacrifice à Dieu et, comme l’encens, deviennent la bonne odeur qui conduit à la vie (2 Co 2, 15.16), obtiennent la grâce et la dignité d’un ensevelissement avec la myrrhe, car ils se livrent de bon gré à la mort au nom du Fils de Dieu.
Avertis en songe de ne pas retourner chez Hérode, ils regagnèrent leur pays par un autre chemin. Ceux qui croient au Fils de Dieu, se détournant du chemin du monde, repartiront par un autre chemin, celui des commandements du Fils de Dieu. Car il a dit lui-même : « Je suis le Chemin et la Vérité » (Jn 14, 6). Celui qui se sera résolument avancé sur ce chemin parviendra facilement à son pays. Et le pays de ceux qui croient au Fils de Dieu, c’est le Paradis.
Fortunatien, né en Afrique du Nord, était évêque d’Aquilée, en Italie, vers le milieu du ive siècle. / Commentaire des Évangiles, f. 16r-17v, trad. G. Bady, Dominicat, années A, B et C, Paris, Cerf/Magnificat, 2020, p. 93.
Épiphanie, représentation dans le retrochoir de la Cathédrale de Sainte Marie de la Regla, León, depuis le Chemin, province de León, Castille-et-Leon, Royaume d’Espagne
LES ROIS MAGES
« Surge, illuminare, Jérusalem ;
quia venit lumen tuum. »
« Lève-toi, illumine-toi, ô Jérusalem ;
car ton astre s'est levé. »
Les siècles avaient passé sur les flammes d’Isaïe sans les éteindre. L’écho de ses cris retentissait encore, au moins dans le coeur de la Vierge. L’attente vague et sourde du genre humain se précisa, se localisa dans trois souverains d’Orient. Les Mages étaient les principaux personnages de l’Orient. Il ne faut pas se laisser tromper par leurs noms et les prendre pour des magiciens. C’étaient des savants, et c’étaient des rois ; car en Orient les savants étaient rois La haute science de la haute antiquité, telle que l’Orient la concevait, portait le sceptre et la couronne.
Ils furent avertis par une étoile ; car ils étaient astronomes. J ai déjà constaté cette loi, en vertu de laquelle les élus sont élus selon leur nature et appelés suivant leur caractère propre. Chaque vision, chaque apparition, chaque parole divine intérieure ou extérieure prend, dans une certaine mesure, la ressemblance de celui qui doit la voir ou l’entendre. Elle se proportionne et se détermine suivant le nom que porte, dans le monde invisible, le contemplateur choisi pour elle. C’est pourquoi les rois d'Orient, les rois savants, les dépositaires des antiques traditions relatives à Balaam, les rois astronomes, les rois occupés des choses du ciel, les rois qui avaient entendu l’écho mystérieux de l’antique tradition murmurer à leur oreille : Orietur stella, « Il se lèvera une étoile », les rois élus et sacrés, qui représentèrent à eux trois la vocation des peuples, furent appelés par une voix digne de leur grandeur : íls furent appelés par une étoile.
Melchior représentait la race de Sem ; Gaspard, la race de Cham ; Balthazar, la race de Japhet.
Voilà Cham réconcilié. Et la Chananéenne verra la face de Celui que l’étoile annonce et triomphera de lui par une prière.
Jamais la peinture ne me paraît avoir représenté cette scène avec la grandeur qui lui appartiendrait.
Le déluge était fini; les eaux s’étaient retirées. Les trois branches de la famille humaine étaient présentes près de Noé, dans la personne de leurs pères. Noé les sépare ; Noé bénit et maudit. La puissance séculaire de sa bénédiction et de sa malédiction divise la race humaine ; elle courbe le front de Cham sous le joug de Sem et de Japhet.
Près de la crèche de Bethléem, près de Jésus-Christ, dont Noé était la figure, voici les trois branches réunies. Gaspard, fils de Cham, accompagne Melchior, fils de Sem, et Balthazar, fils de Japhet. Aucune infériorité connue ne pèse sur Gaspard : la place qui lui est donnée est la même qui est donnée aux autres. Les nations sont présentes dans la personne de leurs représentants; aucune d’elles ne porte envie aux autres. Toutes sont appelées par la même étoile. Le même attrait, également célesle pour elles toutes, également majestueux, les réunit et les incline dans une même adoration.
Les trois branches de la famille humaine ont en- tendu avec la même clarté retentir à leurs oreilles l’écho du psaume LXXI :
« Les rois de la Tarse et des îles offriront des présents. Les rois d’Arabie et de Saba apporteront leurs dons. Tous les rois de la terre l’adoreront, et toutes les nations le serviront. »
D’où venaient-ils ? On ne le sait pas précisément ; mais tout porte à croire que c’était de l’Arabie Heureuse. Ce pays, dont le nom est étrange, fut habité par les enfants qu’Abraham eut de Cétura, sa seconde femme ; par Jecran, père de Saba; et par Madian, père d’Epha.
La nature des présents offerts favorise cette pensée : l’or, l’encens et la myrrhe sont nés en Arabie.
Quel drame que leur voyage ! Imaginons-nous des rois qui tout à coup, sur la foi d’une étoile, abandonnent leur palais, leur trône, leur pays ! Quelle foi dans ce départ ! et quelle jeunesse ! quelle ardeur! quelle recherche de la lumière ! Ils devaient être bien libres de toute attache extéríeure, de toute habitude, de toute étiquette et de tout préjugé, ces hommes qui, au premier signal, quittent le repos oriental et la tranquillité de leur demeure souveraine pour les fatigues et les dangers d’un énorme voyage, et abordent, sans hésiter, tout l’inconnu qui est devant eux !
Ils ne reculent pas ; ils ne disent pas : « Demain » ; ils partent aujourd’hui. Les chameaux portent leurs lourdes charges à travers ces espaces peu remplis et presque inconnus ; car les voyages devaient être aussi rares que difficiles dans ce temps et dans ce lieu. L’étoile seule disait la route. Elle était la seule compagne, silencieuse et mystérieuse. Le voyage lui-même dut être silencieux. L'étoile était l’image de la lumière intérieure qui brillait et conduisait. L’Epiphanie était leur lumière. L’Epíphanie! quel mot ! la manifestation ! Arrivés dans la capitale de la Judée, ils ne demandent pas si réellement le Roi des Juifs était né, mais en quel lieu il était né. Leur confiance était absolue. Le fait est certain. Nous avons vu son étoile, disaient-ils, et nous sommes venus l’adorer. Leur question ne porte que sur le lieu de sa naissance.
Ils n’ont ni peur ni respect humain. Ils disent la chose comme ils la savent, sans ménager rien ni personne. Ils ne se demandent pas s’il est prudent de parler à Hérode du Roi des Juifs, s’il est étrange de venir de loin, ayant cru à une étoile. Ils ne se demandent rien ; ils parlent tout haut comme ils pensent ; et cependant c’est à Hérode qu’ils parlent, à Hérode qui a fait mourir sa première femme Mariamme, à Hérode qui s’est débarrassé de trois de ses fils parce qu’ils excitaient ses soupçons.
Mais les trois Mages étaient assez grands pour être simples. Ils partent parce qu’ils croient. Ils parlent parce qu’ils croient. Ils trouvent parce qu’ils croient ; et pendant que leur foi naïve rencontre Celui qu’elle cherche, Hérode, l’habile homme, le malin, le calculateur, le fin politique, égorge tous les enfants qu’il ne tient pas à égorger, et laisse vivre uniquement Celui qu’il veut faire mourir.
Il ruse, il trompe, il fourni taux Mages des renseignements ; il leur en demande aussi. Il joue au plus fin avec la grandeur naïve de la haute science orientale. Quand vous l’aurez trouvé, avertissez-moi, dit-il, afin que j’aille l’adorer aussi.
Et il se prend dans ses filets: et il ne perd que lui-même. Et il sera seul victime de la ruse qu’il combine et dont il se félicite probablement comme d’une partie très bien jouée. Comme il dut se moquer des trois Mages, quand il vit leur confiance ! Et comme les rois mages durent s’indigner, quand ils virent que les Juifs ne daignaient pas chercher au milieu d’eux Celui que l’Orient venait chercher de si loin.
Et comme cette épouvantable vérité : « Nul n’est prophète en son pays dut éclater à leurs yeux ! Quel effet dut produire sur eux le lieu où ils trouvèrent l’Enfant ! Ils venaient de l’Arabie pour l’adorer, et ils étaient rois.
Cependant Celui qu’ils venaient adorer, chassé avant sa naissance, n’avait pas trouvé pour naître de place à l’hôtellerie. Toutes les chambres étaient pleines ; Marie et Joseph n’avaient pas trouvé de place.
La simplicité terrible du récit de l’Évangile n’insiste pas sur cette chose qui dépasse la pensée. Elle constate tranquillement qu’il n’y avait pas de place à l’hôtellerie.
La magnificence orientale étalant l’or, l’encens et la myrrhe, apportant les rois et leurs chameaux avec leur suite et leurs présents, cette magnifi-cence volontaire et lointaine, enthousiaste et étrangère, fait ressortir avec éclat la conduite des gens d’à côté, des gens du pays qui remplirent l’hôtellerie sans laisser une place pour Celui qui se refugie entre un boeuf et un âne, parce qu’il est dans son pays et que l’étoile le dénonce à l’Orient.
Que se passa-t-il dans la crèche ? Quelle forme prit l'adoration vivante et jeune de ces hommes savants et forts?
Quel peintre que celui qui donnerait à chacun des trois rois la physionomie de la branche représentée par lui ; qui écrirait sur leur front le nom de Sem, de Cham et de Japhet ; qui annoncerait leur adoration suivant l’esprit de leur famille ; qui étalerait la splendeur orientale dans la crèche de Bethléem avec pompe et sans effort ! et quel peintre surtout que celui qui mettrait sur la face de Joseph et sur celle de Marie la conscience de ce qui se passe !
Les Mages reçurent l’ordre de ne pas aller trouver Hérode et revinrent dans leur pays par un autre chemin. Le chemin qui sert pour aller à la crèche ne sert plus pour y revenir.
Le religieux Cyrille, dans la Vie de saint Théodose, raconte qu’ils fuyaient les grands chemins et les lieux fréquentés et se retiraient la nuit dans les cavernes, recherchant la solitude. Qui peut mesurer la profondeur de l’impression qu’ils avaient reçue ? Qui peut savoir quelle empreinte sur des âmes, ainsi préparées, avait laissée la face de Celui qu’ils avaient cherché et trouvé ?
Etant revenus chez eux par un autre chemin, ils vécurent certainement chez eux une autre vie. Ils gardèrent fídèlement le dépôt du souvenir. Ils vivaient encore longtemps après lamort et la résurrection de Jésus-Christ.
Ils vivaient encore, quand saint Thomas arriva dans leur pays. Saint Thomas, qui avait vu Jésus-Christ ressuscité, baptisa ceux qui avaient vu Jésus-Christ dans la crèche. Peut-être une parenté mystérieuse unit-elle saint Thomas aux rois Mages.
Quelques jours avant l’Epiphanie, il y avait eu des adorateurs appelés du dehors ; et c’étaient des bergers, des bergers qui passaient la nuittour à tour, gardant leurs troupeaux. Les premiers adorateurs appelés du dehors furent des rois et des bergers. Ces deux titres, placés maintenant aux deux extrémités de l’échelle sociale, étaient autrefois des mots presque synonymes. D’après le langage et le sentiment de la haute antiquité, les rois étaient les pasteurs des peuples. Partout ceux qui commandent étaient appelés bergers ; ceux qui obéissent étaient appelés brebis. Je disais qu’une parenté mystérieuse et surnaturelle unissait peut-être saint Thomas aux rois Mages. Une autre parenté mystérieuse, mais naturelle, unit probablement les rois et les bergers. Les rois Mages étaient savants; les bergers qui veillaient la nuit tour à tour près de Bethléem, étaient simples.
Les rois virent une étoile parce qu’ils étaient astronomes. Les bergers virent un ange, apparemment parce qu’ils étaient simples.
Les bergers reçurent une indication qui se rapportait à leur caractère : Vous trouverez l’Enfant enveloppé de langes et couché dans une crèche.
Et une nombreuse troupe d’esprits célestes se joignit à l’ange chantant dans la nuit sainte :
Gloria in Excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonoe voluntatis !
La bonne volonté, cette chose simple aussi, et qui n’a guère de place dans le langage vulgairement appelé poétique, éclate dans le chant des anges, après la gloire, à côté de la gloire ; et les deux mots rapprochés produisent un effet sublime.
Le caractère distinctif des bergers fut probablement la simplicité.
Celui des rois fut peut-être la magnificence et la générosité. Je ne parle pas seulement de la générosité dans les présents, dans l’or, dans l’encens, dans la myrrhe, mais de la générosité dans la foi, dans l’adoration, dans l’entreprise, dans le voyage. Je ne parle pas seulement de la générosité qui donne. Je parle aussi de la générosité qui se donne.
Leurs reliques furent transportées de Perse à Constantinople. Sainte Hélène les fit déposer avec magnificence dans la basilique de Sainte-Sophie. L’évêque Eustache, du temps de l’évêque Emmanuel, les apporta à Milan. Quand Frédéric Barberousse prit et saccagea cette ville, les reliques des rois Mages reçurent à Cologne une dernière hospitalité.
On s’est beaucoup demandé ce qu’était l’étoile des Mages. Les uns ont cru que c’était une étoile absolument miraculeuse, surgissant tout à coup en dehors des lois naturelles et n’ayant rien à démêler avec l’astronomie.
D’autres ont dit : Une étoile ordinaire ne pourrait jamais indiquer une maison en particulier; elle pourrait bien indiquer un pays en général, mais elle ne marquerait pas d’une façon précise une certaine étable ; il fallait donc que ce fût un météore situé près de la terre.
D’autres enfin ont eu recours à une troisième explication, longuement développée dans les pe-tits Bollandistes.
D’après une hypothése astronomique, adoptée par le docteur Sepp, une nouvelle étoile peut tout à coup apparaître, grâce à la conjonction de trois planètes. En 1604, la conjonction des trois planètes, Saturne, Jupiter et Mars, fut observée par les astronomes. Une nouvelle étoile apparut tout à coup entre Mars et Saturne, au pied du Serpentaire. Cette étoile brillait d’un éclat extraordinaire et répandait autour d’elle une lumière coloríée.
On a calculé qu’une conjonction analogue, pouvant produire un effet analogue, se produit tous les 800 ans. Car Saturne et Jupiter mettent environ 800 ans à parcourir le zodiaque.
Sept périodes de 800 ans environ se sont écoulées depuis la création du monde, périodes qui pourraient apparaître comme les jours climatériques de l’humanité :
D’Adam à Enoch ;
D’Enoch au déluge;
Du déluge à Moïse ;
De Moïse à Isaïe ;
D’Isaïe à Jésus-Christ ;
De Jésus-Christ à Charlemagne;
De Charlemagne au temps moderne, marqué par la découverte de l’imprimerie.
Le septième jour serait le nôtre.
L’étoile des Mages est-elle le résultat d’une combinaison astronomique ou une étoile directement miraculeuse ?
Nul ne le sait. Quoi qu’il en soit, Dieu ayant fait l’ordre naturel comme l’ordre surnaturel, son action est également sensible, également manifesté, également providentielle dans ces deux cas. L’or, qui est la puissance ; l’encens, qui est l’adoration ; la myrrhe, qui est la pénitence, furent offerts à Jésus-Christ par la volonté expresse de Dieu, manifestée par une étoile et témoignée par les rois.
Ernest HELLO. Physionomie de saints.
Beato Angelico, Armadio degli argenti, Adorazione dei magi, 1450 circa, Scala, Firenze
Saints Rois mages
Le récit de Matthieu ne dit presque rien des Mages. Il signale seulement que ces mages venaient d'Orient. (Évangile selon saint Matthieu Chapitre 2)
Les mages auraient été qualifiés du titre de roi dès le IIIe siècle, mais c'est seulement au XIIe que cette royauté des mages est reconnue par la liturgie et l'iconographie. Considérés comme saints, leurs reliques arrivèrent au XIIe à la cathédrale de Cologne. Au VIe siècle l'Église donne des noms aux rois mages Gaspard, Melchior et Balthazar, avec ces noms, ils sont devenus des personnages légendaires, et en même temps presque vivants. Les crèches les représentent en magnifiques costumes imaginés orientaux, avec des chameaux et des serviteurs.
D'abord Arabes ou Persans, ils sont ensuite représentés comme appartenant à trois peuples différents ou aux trois continents alors connus, l'Asie, l'Europe et l'Afrique. Ils représentent maintenant toute l'humanité.
JMJ Cologne (dossier de presse, fiche 1) rencontre mondiale de la jeunesse à Cologne en 2005 sur le thème: "Nous sommes venus l'adorer".
Le choix de ce thème s'explique par une "pieuse tradition" selon laquelle des reliques des rois mages se trouvent dans la cathédrale de Cologne. Celle-ci attire, depuis le XIIe siècle, des pèlerins du monde entier. Comme les rois mages, comme ces pèlerins qui les ont précédés, les jeunes sont invités à venir rencontrer et adorer Jésus Christ.
L'adoration est réservée à Dieu. C'est ce dont témoignent les mages en offrant à Jésus nouveau-né de l'or, de l'encens et de la myrrhe. Ils font le don de leur vie, de leurs prières et de leur gratitude.
S'en retournant de Bethléem, les mages repartent par un autre chemin, libérés des conventions du monde. Cette nouvelle voie qu'ils empruntent est signe de conversion.
Dans la magnifique cathédrale de cette ville, au cœur de l'Allemagne et de l'Europe, on vénère les reliques des saints Rois Mages, qui sont donc devenus en un certain sens vos guides vers ce rendez-vous. Ils vinrent de l'Orient pour rendre hommage à Jésus et déclarèrent: "Nous sommes venus l'adorer" (Mt 2, 2). Ces paroles, si riches de signification, constituent le thème de votre itinéraire spirituel et catéchétique vers la Journée mondiale de la Jeunesse.
Le 6 janvier 2010 en la solennité de l'Épiphanie, Benoît XVI commentant à l'homélie un passage du Livre d'Isaïe et un passage de l'Évangile de Matthieu, a dit que les Mages sont les premiers d'une longue procession de ceux qui, "tout au long de l'histoire, ont reconnu le signe de l'étoile et suivi les voies de l'Écriture pour rencontrer celui qui malgré son apparente fragilité offre au cœur de l'homme la plus haute félicité". Dans l'Enfant Jésus "Dieu démontre qu'il nous connaît et qu'il nous est proche, que sa grandeur n'est pas dans la logique du monde mais dans celle de l'enfant sans défense, dont la seule force est l'amour donné. A chaque période, les personnes éclairées par l'étoile trouvent le chemin qui y conduit, vivant ainsi l'expérience même des Mages".
Puis, à l'angélus, il a rappelé cette grande fête de "la manifestation du Seigneur aux peuples représentés par les mages venus d'orient pour adorer le Roi des Juifs". La lumière de l'étoile et celle de l'Écriture guidèrent ces chercheurs de la vérité... C'était des hommes de savoir, qui observaient le ciel comme un livre rempli de signes et de messages divins adressés à l'homme. Loin de s'en contenter, leur science était ouverte aux révélations et aux appels divins".
(source VIS 100107)
(voir aussi Epiphanie du Seigneur)
A lire :
- La longue et curieuse histoire de Melchior, Gaspard et Balthasar.
- Les Rois Mages des bords du Jourdain aux rives du Rhin, ou le long voyage d'un mystère à travers l'Europe.
SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/Epiphanie-du-Seigneur-6-janvier
Épiphanie : le mystérieux détour des mages par Jérusalem
Jean-Michel Castaing | 04 janvier 2019
En perdant l’étoile qui les guide vers la crèche de Bethléem, les mages venus d’Orient vont découvrir qui est leur guide véritable.
La solennité de l’Épiphanie est le jour où l’Église commémore la révélation du Messie à toutes les nations, représentées par les mages. L’Épiphanie (mot d’origine grecque signifiant « manifestation ») constitue la fête de l’universalité du salut dans le Christ.
L’astre du Messie joue à cache-cache
Le récit évangélique illustre cette universalité par la recherche des mages venus d’Orient. Ceux-ci ont vu l’astre du roi nouveau-né des juifs à son ascendance (c’est-à-dire à son lever), et sont venus se prosterner devant lui. Manifestement, l’étoile a guidé ces fins astrologues de leur terre natale jusqu’en Judée.
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Mais pour quelle raison sont-ils passés par Jérusalem ? L’astre a-t-il subitement disparu, tandis qu’ils cheminaient ? Il semblerait que l’étoile se soit en effet éclipsée, puisqu’elle réapparaîtra après leur passage à Jérusalem, en les précédant de nouveau jusqu’au domicile où réside l’enfant recherché. Pourquoi un tel jeu de cache-cache, un tel caprice de la part de l’astre du Messie annoncé ?
L’astrologie est une aliénation
La première raison qui vient à l’esprit est que les mages sont introduits ainsi dans une religion qui a toujours tenu l’astrologie en suspicion. Celle-ci est condamnée dans le judaïsme (dont la Judée est l’épicentre théologique), qui y voit une atteinte à la liberté de l’homme. La Bible rejette les pratiques de divination : « Il ne se trouvera personne chez toi pour recourir à la divination » (Dt 18, 10-11).
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Ces précisions sont importantes, surtout lorsqu’on sait qu’un Français sur quatre lit (de façon plus ou moins sérieuse, certes) son horoscope le matin! De son temps, saint Thomas d’Aquin n’y allait pas avec le dos de la cuillère : « L’astrologie peut conduire à une aliénation de la liberté des individus qui, au lieu d’assumer leurs responsabilités devant les événements, s’en remettent à des prédictions hasardeuses ! » Ainsi, les mages venus d’Orient sont-ils obligés de reconnaître qu’en pénétrant en Israël, ils doivent relativiser leur science prédictive qu’ils tiennent de leurs observations savantes du ciel.
Une révélation d’amour
Mais la condamnation de l’astrologie n’est pas le motif principal de l’éclipse momentanée de l’astre du Messie. Si l’étoile a disparu du ciel, c’est surtout afin que les mages passent par la case Jérusalem, où résidaient des savants versés dans l’Écriture. La prophétie du Livre saint leur fait saisir que la Révélation n’est pas une affaire d’astronomie ou d’astrologie, qu’elle n’est pas donnée par la Nature, mais par Dieu lui-même et sa Parole. Les mages comprennent ainsi que la révélation dont Dieu a gratifié son peuple est d’abord une révélation d’amour avant d’être une manifestation de sa puissance.
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Si Dieu n’avait voulu ne faire connaître à Israël que sa toute-puissance, ou son unicité, Il lui aurait parlé intérieurement, en lui demandant de lever les yeux sur le spectacle du monde. L’univers aurait alors instruit l’homme sur l’omniscience et l’omnipotence de la divinité. Mais Dieu est Amour. Il n’a pas envie d’être adoré d’abord en tant que tout-puissant ou Sagesse suprême, mais en tant que partenaire d’une Alliance. En tant que Dieu-Amour.
Le Messie, fruit d’une déclaration d’amour
Or l’amour doit se dire, se déclarer. Voilà pourquoi Dieu a parlé par les prophètes dans la Bible. Le livre qui scelle spirituellement les Écritures, le quatrième évangile, porte à son accomplissement la Révélation dans l’épisode du flanc transpercé de Jésus sur la Croix. Là, le Cœur de Dieu s’ouvre sous le coup de lance du soldat romain, pour nous manifester que toute la Révélation biblique est une déclaration d’amour de Dieu à l’homme (Jn 19, 34). Le Catéchisme de l’Église catholique affirme : « L’Écriture est une en raison de l’unité du dessein de Dieu, dont le Christ est le centre et le cœur, ouvert depuis la Pâque » (CEC 112).
Voilà pourquoi les mages sont obligés d’aller consulter les savants versés dans l’Écriture sainte à Jérusalem. Le Messie a été annoncé par une parole d’amour, qui court tout au long de la Bible, avant de l’être par une étoile dans le ciel.
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Limbourg brothers (fl. 1402–1416). Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 51, verso: The Meeting of the Magi, between 1411 and 1416, 29 X 21. Chaque roi dirige un cortège. Les trois groupes prennent la direction d'un édicule situé au centre, appelé aussi « montjoye », surmonté de l'étoile. Les rois mages représentent les trois âges de la vie : l'adolescent, l'homme et le vieillard. Gaspard, le jeune en haut à droite, est suivi de deux personnages noirs. Balthasar, l'homme, est placé à gauche et Melchior, le vieillard (ici à l'image de l'empereur byzantin Manuel II Paleologue), en bas à droite. Par ailleurs, divers animaux sauvages sont peints : des guépards, un lion, un lézard ainsi qu'un ours, symbole du duc de Berry. Condé Museum, Ms.65, f.51. Raymond Cazelles et Johannes Rathofer (préf. Umberto Eco), Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, Tournai, La Renaissance du Livre, 2001 (1re éd. 1988), 238 p.
La gloire des Mages dans les Très riches Heures du duc de Berry
Dominique Ponnau | 05 janvier 2019
« En ce temps de l’Épiphanie, on continue à “tirer les rois” pour se parer de leurs couronnes. Pendant près de deux millénaires, les artistes ont illustré avec amour cette histoire légendaire et l’ont ancrée dans la mémoire de nos imaginaires et de nos cœurs, où se respire leur vérité. »
La gloire des Mages aux pieds du Roi des rois. L’Épiphanie est le déploiement du Jour de Dieu. Le Rédempteur, sans rien abandonner de son humilité extrême, y resplendit en sa gloire. Pour nous, fils de l’Occident, c’est le jour où les Mages, venus d’Orient, vont déposer aux pieds du Sauveur l’or de sa royauté, l’encens de sa divinité, la myrrhe de son ensevelissement. Ces Mages, nous dit-on, de manière à mon sens lourdement insistante, ne sont pas des rois, mais des savants, consulteurs des astres. C’est vrai, assurément, mais cette insistance idéologique à leur refuser la royauté fait litière de ce que des siècles de piété, de beauté, ont perçu de leur gloire, ainsi d’ailleurs que de textes scripturaires splendides, tels que la Parole de Dieu dans les écrits prophétiques, ceux d’Isaïe en particulier au chapitre 60, et des psaumes qui, tel le psaume 72, soulignent que les rois viendront, de Tharsis et des îles, de Cheba et de Seba, mais au vrai du monde entier, apporter au Roi des rois leurs trésors.
C’est en ce jour non seulement la science du monde, mais aussi ses éphémères royautés, qui, par leurs représentants, viennent adorer le Roi des rois, dont « le royaume n’est pas de ce monde », comme il le dira dans trente ans au préfet romain qui le juge et le livre en pâture à la haine des siens.
Le point de ralliement
J’ai retenu ici, pour vous, un double exemple illustrant dans l’art la gloire des Mages ; il appartient aux Très riches Heures du duc de Berry. Le premier est celui de leur rencontre, le second celui de leur adoration. Voici d’abord La Rencontre des Mages.
Au seuil de la cabane à claire-voie, au toit percé où elle demeure avec Joseph, couvert d’une coiffe jaune comme un Juif de son temps, devant les dames de sa Cour et, plus loin, les bergers, assise, enveloppée d’azur, elle leur présente son Fils, qu’ils adorent, le plus vieux, à genoux, baisant ses pieds et recevant sa gracieuse bénédiction, le second prostré devant lui, le troisième, genou fléchi, lui offrant l’encens de sa divinité et le regardant sans nulle crainte. Les escortes, derrière les trois rois découronnés, demeurent immobiles, d’autres bergers gardent leurs moutons dans les prés, l’insigne cathédrale de Bourges et la fameuse tour de la cité s’inscrivent sur le ciel à l’horizon. Au sommet de l’azur, parmi les anges d’or, musiciens et chanteurs, qui forment une corolle à l’étoile dont les rayons transpercent la chaumière divine, la Paix promise au monde paisiblement respire.
Le mystère de la théophanie
Permettez-moi, lecteur, avant de vous quitter, de vous dire encore un mot, le plus beau peut-être, sur le mystère de l’Épiphanie. Nos frères d’Orient ne l’appellent pas ainsi. Ils la nomment la « Théophanie ».
La manifestation de Dieu ! Ils choisissent pour la fêter le moment où le ciel s’entrouvre lors du Baptême de son Fils, et où la voix du Père retentit. « Voici, dit-il, mon Fils, mon bien-aimé ! Écoutez-le ! » Avec Piero della Francesca, lors d’une tentative de réunir enfin les deux Églises d’Orient et d’Occident, lors du Concile de Florence, sous les ailes déployées de l’Esprit-Saint planant dans le Ciel apaisé, écoutons-Le !
Écoutons-Le enfin, après l’adoration des Mages et le Baptême du Christ, dans le troisième aspect de la manifestation épiphanique, théophanique de sa munificence divine, en suivant le conseil de sa propre Mère et la nôtre, apparemment éconduite (« Femme, que me veux-tu ? Mon Heure n’est pas encore venue »). Elle nous dit, à nous aussi, en son Nom à Lui : « Faites tout ce qu’il vous dira ». Demandons au Giotto des Noces de Cana de nous faire entendre, écouter, suivre le conseil de Marie.
En Pologne, l’étonnante tradition de la craie pour l’Épiphanie
Domitille Farret d'Astiès | 04 janvier 2019
Chaque pays a des traditions qui lui sont propres pour les fêtes religieuses. En Pologne, le jour de la fête des rois mages, on bénit les maisons à la craie.
Quand la France du nord et celle du sud s’écharpent depuis des lustres pour savoir qui de la galette (gâteau fourré à la frangipane) ou de la couronne (brioche aux fruits confits) gagnera lors de l’Épiphanie, un peu plus à l’Est, à la même période, les Polonais perpétuent une tradition intéressante.
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Un véritable rituel
En Pologne, le 6 janvier est férié. Ce jour-là, outre les traditionnels défilés qui mettent en scène la visite des rois venus d’Orient, il existe la tradition de la craie bénite. À la fin de la messe de l’Épiphanie, un morceau de craie bénite est distribué aux fidèles. Dans certaines paroisses, il est accompagné d’un petit paquet d’encens à brûler chez soi qui rappelle qu’il est important de rendre grâce à Dieu. Cette tradition repose sur un véritable rituel. Il existe même une formule de bénédiction de la craie qui est la suivante : « Bénissez, ô Seigneur notre Dieu, cette craie, votre créature, afin qu’elle devienne salutaire au genre humain, et accordez par l’invocation de votre nom très saint que tous ceux qui l’emporteront ou qui écriront avec elle sur leurs portes les noms de vos saints Gaspard, Melchior et Balthazar, reçoivent par leur intercession et leurs mérites la santé du corps et la protection de l’âme ».
Les prêtres partent ensuite rendre visite à leurs paroissiens à domicile afin de porter chez eux la bonne parole et distribuer des images pieuses. Ceux-ci peuvent profiter de l’occasion pour les inviter à casser la croûte et leur glisser une mała koperta (petite enveloppe). En partant, les pasteurs tracent à la craie en haut de la porte d’entrée « K+M+B » ou « C+M+B », ainsi que les chiffres de l’année qui vient de commencer (« 2019 », donc, pour cette année), divisés en deux afin d’encadrer les lettres. Lesquelles reprennent les initiales de Kasper, Melchior et Baltazar et représentent également les initiales de la locution latine Christus Mansionem Benedicat, qui signifie « Que le Christ bénisse cette maison ».
Remettre sa maison dans la main de Dieu
Cette tradition permet de bénir les maisons et de souhaiter le meilleur à leurs habitants pour l’année qui vient. De surcroît, ce signe extérieur montre que des chrétiens vivent là. Ce rite est présent dans d’autres pays comme la République tchèque ou encore le Canada. Une autre tradition polonaise, plus récente, est celle des reconstitutions du périple des mages. Ces cortèges se multiplient dans tout le pays et rencontrent un fort essor. À Varsovie, le défilé des rois mages réunit chaque année des dizaines de milliers de personnes.
Lire aussi :SOURCE : https://fr.aleteia.org/2019/01/04/en-pologne-letonnante-tradition-de-la-craie-pour-lepiphanie/?utm_campaign=NL_fr&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_fr
- Twelfth Day
- Greek: epi, upon; phaino, show
Feast commemorating the manifestation of the glory of Christ to the Gentiles in the person of the Magi, as well as His Baptism and first miracle at Cana. Originating in the Eastern Church in the 3rd century, it soon spread to the West, where it is now commemorated especially for the apparition to the Magi. In England and many European countries it is popularly known as Twelfth Night (after Christmas) and is the occasion for the revival of numerous quaint customs. The feast is a holy day of obligation in England, Scotland, and Ireland. The office of the day is one of special beauty.
- Analysis of the Gospels
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Epiphany
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Magi
- Catholic Pocket Dictionary
- Goffine’s Devout Instruction
- Golden Legend
- Light from the Altar
- Lives of the Saints, by Father Alban Butler
- New Catholic Dictionary
- Pictorial Half Hours with the Saints
- Pictorial Lives of the Saints
- Roman Martyrology, 1914 edition
- Roman Martyrology, 1914 edition
- Roman Martyrology, 1914 edition
- Saints of the Day, by Katherine Rabenstein
- Short Lives of the Saints, by Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly
- The Three Kings of Cologne, by John of Hildesheim
- The Three Wise Kings
- They Call It a Little Christmas, by Father Daniel Aloysius Lord
- Breviary Hymns and Missal Sequences
- Bishop Geremia Bonomelli
- Catholic Cuisine: Befanini
- Catholic Culture
- Catholic Ireland
- Catholic Lane
- Catholic News Agency
- John Dillon
- One Peter Five: Chalking the Doors
- Directions for Floral Decoration of Churches, by William Barrett
- “Feast of the Epiphany“. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 December 2020. Web. 5 January 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/feast-of-the-epiphany/>
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Robert H. Sarkissian.
Nowadays in the West the feast goes by the name Epiphany and celebrates the visit of the Magi and while in the East it is called Theophany and celebrates the appearance of God at the Baptism of Jesus.
The word epiphany
The word epiphany was used in Greek religion to indicate the appearance or manifestation of a god or goddess in human form along with the suggestion that the person or persons who had the epiphany would be delivered from danger and/or their enemies defeated. Theophany is a less frequently used word meaning the same thing. In the New Testament epiphany is used to refer to both the first and the final comings of Jesus (Titus 2:11, 13). The word then came to be used of the miracles of Jesus as manifesting divine power.
As a Christian celebration on 6th January the feast is first mentioned by Clement of Alexandria around 215 AD. He mentions the Basilidians, a gnostic Christian group, commemorating the baptism of Jesus on that day (PG 8:885).
The Jesuit writer Cyril Martindale was probably quite accurate when writing of Epiphany in the West, he says:
He says that certain heretics:
- refuse to celebrate the Epiphany regarding it as a needless duplication of the Natitivity feast, and
- think this dies epiphaniorum (= "day of epiphanies" - note the plural) is "the day of the baptism or of the transformation which occurred on the mountain".
The Mass texts for the Epiphany in the Roman Missal today remain focused on the visit of the Magi. The Opening Prayer highlights the imagery of the light and the star.
[that we will be guided by the light of faith].
you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith.
However, a plurality of themes, reminiscent of the feast's oriental and baptismal origins, is quite strongly asserted in the Liturgy of the Hours of Epiphany. In the Antiphon for the Canticle at Morning Prayer (Benedictus), the theme of the marriage feast of Cana is elaborated into the espousals of Christ and his Church to which the Magi bring gifts.
since Christ has washed away her sins in Jordan’s waters;
the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding;
and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine,
today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ;
today water is turned into wine for the wedding feast;
today Christ is baptised by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.
Eastern Churches all seem to have a blessing of water ritual associated with their Epiphany/Theophany feast and today Orthodox Christians who follow the Gregorian or an updated Julian calendar all seem to follow this tradition. Those who follow the original Julian calendar, like the Russian Orthodox, have the Nativity on 7th January and the Baptism of the Lord twelve days later, 19th January.
The West tried to make some connection with the Eastern and baptismal origins of the feast when in 1969 the Roman Liturgical Calendar was revised. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord was brought in on the Sunday after the Epiphany and is supposed to close the season of Christmastide (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 14-2-1969. no. 38). But it can hardly be said to find a suitable cultural context here at this time of year.
Franco-Flemish Master. The Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot, tra il 1390 e il 1410 circa, Oil and tempera on panel. Getty Center
Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord
Like many of the most ancient Christian feasts, Epiphany was first celebrated in the East, where it has been held from the beginning almost universally on January 6. Today, among both Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the feast is known as Theophany—the revelation of God to man. In the United States it is celebrated on the Sunday between January 1 and January 6. (in 2011 on January 2)
Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance: the Baptism of Christ; Christ’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana; the Nativity of Christ; and the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. Each of these is a revelation of God to man: At Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God the Father is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son; at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity; at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ, and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him; and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles—the other nations of the earth.
Eventually, the celebration of the Nativity was separated out, in the West, into Christmas; and shortly thereafter, Western Christians adopted the Eastern feast of the Epiphany, still celebrating the Baptism, the first miracle, and the visit from the Wise Men. Thus, Epiphany came to mark the end of Christmastide—the twelve days of Christmas, which began with the revelation of Christ to Israel in His Birth and ended with the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles at Epiphany.
Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West, and now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and the wedding at Cana is commemorated on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord.
In many parts of Europe, the celebration of Epiphany is at least as important as the celebration of Christmas. In Italy and other Mediterranean countries, Christians exchange gifts on Epiphany—the day on which the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ Child—while in Northern Europe, it’s not unusual to give gifts on both Christmas and Epiphany (often with smaller gifts on each of the twelve days of Christmas in between).
SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/epiphany-of-our-lord/
Saint Matthew 2:1-12
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.”
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.
Q. Who was this Herod under whose government Christ was born?
A. He was the oldest son of Antipater, the Idumian from the city of Ascalon, who was appointed king of the Jews by the Roman Senate at the recommendation of Mark Antony. He was the father of Herod Antipas, who ordered the beheading of Saint John the Baptist, and grandfather of Herod Agrippa, who caused Saint James to be put to death and the same who imprisoned Saint Peter. Saint Matthew informs us that Herod ruled in the time of the birth of Christ, fulfilling the prophecy of Jacob, who foretold the coming of Christ when the sceptre had passed into the hands of strangers. This prophecy was verified when the Roman Senate appointed Herod, of Idumian origin, king of the Jews.
Q. Who were these Magi of whom the Evangelist speaks?
A. They were men distinguished for their knowledge, particularly of astronomy, and according to some Fathers and Doctors they were petty kings of the East who came, as was foretold in the seventy-first psalm, from Arabia and from Saba to offer their gifts and adoration to the Messias.
Q. In what way were they invited?
A. They saw the star which according to prophetic prediction was to appear when the promised Saviour was born, and by the interior operation of grace they recognized it as the sign of His birth and hastened to follow its course. According to the opinion of the Fathers, they were the first of the Gentiles who were called to enter into the Church of Christ.
Q. What is worthy of remark in the conduct of the Magi?
A. We must admire their promptness in corresponding to the invitation of grace. Immediately on the appearance of the star they, giving no heed to the suggestions of human prudence, the difficulties of the way, and the uncertainties of success, left their homes and set out in search of the Child; and while thus seeking in obedience to the voice of heaven, they teach us with what disregard of human interests, with what solicitude and courage, we should always follow divine inspiration and the call of heaven.
Q. But why were the Magi directed to Jerusalem?
A. We must here remember that a prophet had called Jerusalem the queen of the world and the joy of all the earth. In Jerusalem alone was the temple dedicated to the true God; to Jerusalem came worshippers from all parts of the world; there were preserved the holy books, and there were found the great teachers of the law. For this reason the Magi directed their steps to the capital of the nation, reasonably hoping to find there a most certain guide who could conduct them to the desired place. We learn from this to have recourse to those who by reason of their sacred character, office, learning, and prudence may direct our steps when we feel impelled by some interior call of heaven.
Q. What are we to think of the question of the Magi when in Jerusalem in reference to the new-born King of the Jews?
A. Their questionings left without excuse the people of Jerusalem who did not recognize and strive to know the Saviour. The coming of the Magi and their seeking for the new-born King of the Jews should have attracted the attention of all in the city, and the answers which the Doctors of the Law, after consulting the books of the prophets, gave to them and to Herod, by whom they were consulted, should have attracted the attention of every citizen to what had happened in full conformity with the expectations of their fathers, with the desires of the people, and with the circumstances in which all the prophecies culminated. It would be unfortunate for us if we, like the non-believers of the time, should attribute to accident or fate that which is God’s work.
Q. What are we to say of the promise of Herod?
A. The cries of the children brutally slaughtered by his command give the answer. His zealous devotion to the new-born King of the Jews was hypocritically assumed in order to deceive the Magi and get the divine Infant into his power that he might put Him to death. His deceit failing of its object, he commanded all the male infants to be put to death that in the general slaughter the infant Jesus might be included. Alas, not all those who make a show of zeal for the truth, justice, and glory of the Eternal Father are lovers of Jesus Christ.
Q. What is to be said of the Magi who, after departing from Jerusalem, again saw the star which had led them from the East?
A. We should comfort ourselves with the reflection that when, like the Magi, we sincerely seek to know the divine will, and seek in the proper manner by consulting learned and enlightened teachers, we will be led to the desired end. God is faithful. Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and He will send us His light to direct us.
Q. How did the Magi recognize the infant Messias Whom they sought?
A. From the words of the Sacred Text it is to be inferred that the star stopped over the place where the Child Jesus reposed, and this wonderful event attracted the attention of the Magi and caused them to enter. It is not difficult to imagine the impression the presence of the God-man made on them and the grace it wrought in them. He Who when grown up knew how to call His apostles after Him, could as a child make Himself known to the Magi, and make them His worshippers.
Q. What did the Magi offer Him, and with what intention?
A. The Gospel tells us they offered Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. By the gold, says Saint Gregory, they recognized Him as king, by the incense they acknowledged Him as God, and by the myrrh they indicated His human nature. They, says Saint Leo, proclaimed by the nature of their gifts the faith that was in their hearts, and with full knowledge they venerated in His person two natures, the divine and human of Jesus Christ.
Q. What are we to learn from this Gospel?
A. We should learn to recognize in the Magi the first-fruits of our vocation to the faith, and to thank God that we have been made Christians. We should learn also to follow the divine call and to offer to Jesus Christ the gold of charity, the incense of prayer, and the myrrh of holy mortification and Christian penance.
– text taken from , by Angelo Cagnola and Father L A Lambert, Benziger Brothers, 1892; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine Corrigan, Archdiocese of New York, 1892
Here followeth the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord and of the three kings.
The Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord is adorned of four miracles, and after them it hath four names. On this day the kings worshiped Jesu Christ, and Saint John Baptist baptized him. And Jesu Christ changed this day water into wine, and he fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread. When Jesu Christ was in the age of thirteen days the three kings came to him the way like as the star led them, and therefore this day is called Epiphany, or the thiephanye in common language. And is said of this term epi, which is as much as to say as above, and of this term phanes which is as much to say as apparition. For then the star appeared above them in the air, where the same Jesus by the star that was seen above them showed him to the kings. And that day twenty-nine years passed, that was at the entry of thirty years, for he had twenty-nine years and thirteen days, and began the thirtieth year as saith Saint Luke. Or after this that Bede saith, he had thirty years complete, as the Church of Rome holdeth. And then he was baptized in the flood or river of Jordan, and therefore it is called the thiephanie said of Theos, which is as much to say as God, and phanes apparition. For then God, that is the Trinity, appeared, God the Father in voice, God the Son in flesh human, God the Holy Ghost in likeness of a dove. After this, that same day a year, when he was thirty-one year old and thirteen days, he turned water into wine, and therefore it is called Bethania, said of beth, that is to say an house, and phanes, that is apparition. And this miracle was done of the wine in an house by which he showed him very God. And this same day a year after that was thirty-two years, he fed five thousand men with five loaves, like as Bede saith. And is also sung in an hymn which beginneth: Illuminans altissimus. And therefore it is called phagiphania, of phage, that is to say meat. And of this fourth miracle some doubt if it were done on this day, for it is not written of Bede expressly, and because that in the gospel of Saint John is read that it was done nigh unto Pasque. Therefore the four apparitions were set on this day. The first by the star unto the crib or racke; the second by the voice of the Father on flom Jordan; the third of the water into wine at the house of Archedeclyn; the fourth by the multiplication of five loaves in desert. Of the first apparition we make solemnity on this day principally, and therefore pursue we the history such as it is.
When our Lord was born, the three kings came into Jerusalem, of whom the names be written in Hebrew, that is to wit Galgalath, Magalath, and Tharath. And in Greek Appelius, Amerius, and Damascus. And in Latin Jaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. And it is to wit that this name Magus hath three significations. It is said illuser or deceiver, enchanter, and wise. They been illusers or deceivers because they deceived Herod. For they returned not by him when they departed from the place where they had honoured and offered to Jesus, but returned by another way into their country. Magus also is said enchanter. And hereof be said the enchanters of Pharaoh, Magi, which by their malefice made their marvels by the enchanting of the craft of the devil. And Saint John Chrysostom calleth these kings Magos, as wicked and evil-doers. For first they were full of malefices, but after they were converted. To whom God would show his Nativity, and bring them to him to the end that to sinners he would do pardon. Item, Magus in same wise. For Magus in Hebrew is said doctor, in Greek, philosopher, and in Latin, wise, whereof they be said Magi, that is to say great in wisdom. And these three came into Jerusalem with a great company and great estate. But wherefore came they to Jerusalem when the child was not born there? Saint Remigius assigneth four reasons. The first reason is that, the kings had knowledge of the nativity of the Child that was born of the Virgin Mary, but not of the place. And because that Jerusalem was the most city royal and there was the see of the sovereign priest, they thought that so noble a child, so nobly showed ought to be born in the most noble city that was royal. The second cause was, for in Jerusalem were the doctors and the wise men by whom they might know where the said child was born. The third cause was to the end that the Jews should have none excusation. For they might have said that they had knowledge of the place where he should be born, but the time knew they not, and therefore they might say, we believe it not. And the kings showed to them the time, and the Jews showed the place. The fourth to the doubt of the Jews and their curiosity, for these kings believed one only prophet, and the Jews believed not many. They sought a strange king, and the Jews sought not their own king. These kings came from far countries, and the Jews were neighbours fast by. These kings were successors of Balaam, and came at the vision and sight of the star, by the prophecy of their father, which said that a star shall be born or spring out of Jacob, and a man shall arise of the lineage of Israel. That other cause that moveth them to come to Jerusalem putteth Saint John Chrysostom, which saith that there were some that affirmed for truth that, there were great clerks that curiously studied to know the secrets of heaven; and after, they chose twelve of them to take heed. And if any of them died, his son or next kinsman shall be set in his place. And these twelve every year ascended upon a mountain which was called Victorial, and three days they abode there, and washed them clean, and prayed our Lord that he would show to them the star that Balaam had said and prophesied before.
Now it happened on a time that they were there the day of the Nativity of Jesu Christ, and a star came over them upon this mountain which had the form of a right fair child, and under his head was a shining cross, which spake to these three kings saying: Go ye hastily into the land of Judea, and there ye shall find the king that ye seek, which is born of a virgin. Another cause putteth Saint Austin; for it might well be that the angel of heaven appeared to them which said: the star that ye see is Jesu Christ, go ye anon and worship him. Another cause putteth Saint Leo, that by the star which appeared to them, which was more resplendent and shining than the other, that it showed the sovereign king to be born on the earth. Then anon departed they for to come to that place. Now may it be demanded how, in so little space of thirteen days they might come from so far as from the East unto Jerusalem, which is in the middle of the world, which is a great space and a long way. Thereto answereth Saint Remigius the doctor, and saith that, the child to whom they went, might well make them to go so much way in that while. Or after this that Saint Jerome saith, that they came upon dromedaries, which be beasts that may go as much in one day as an horse in three days. And when they came into Jerusalem, they demanded in what place the King of Jews was born. And they demanded not if he was born, for they believed it firmly that he was born. And if any had demanded of them: Whereby know ye that he is born? They would have answered: We have seen his star in the Orient, and therefore we come to worship him. This is to understand, we being in the Orient saw his star that showed that he was born in Judea, and we be come to worship him. And therefore saith this doctor Remigius, that they confessed this child very man, very King, and very God. Very man when they said where is he that is born? very King when they said King of Jews; very God when they said we be come to worship him. For there was a commandment that none should be worshipped but God. And thus as saith Saint John Chrysostom: They confessed the child very God by word, by deed, and by gifts of their treasures that they offered to him. And when Herod had heard this he was much troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Herod was troubled for three causes, first, because he dreaded that the Jews would receive the child born for their King, and refuse he would worship also him, and thought that he would go slay him. And it is to wit that as soon as they were entered into Jerusalem, the sight of the star was taken from them and for three causes: First, that they should be constrained to seek that place of his nativity like as they were certified by the appearing of the star and by the prophecy of the place of his birth, and so it was done. Secondly, that they that sought the help and the world, had deserved to lose the aid divine. The third because that the signs be given to miscreants, and prophecies to them that believe well like, as the apostle saith. And therefore the sign which was given to the three kings, which yet were paynims ought not to appear to them as long as they were with the Jews. And when they were issued of Jerusalem, the star appeared to them, which went before them, and brought them till it came above the place where the Child was. And ye ought to know that there be three opinions of this star, which Remigius the doctor putteth, saying that: Some say that it was the Holy Ghost which appeared to the three kings in the form of a star, which after appeared upon the head of Jesu Christ in the likeness of a dove. Others say, like to Saint John Chrysostom, that it was an angel that appeared to the shepherds, and after appeared to the kings, but to the shepherds, Jews, as to them that use reason in form of a reasonable creature, and to the paynims as unreasonable, that is to say of a star. Others say more reasonably and more veritably that it was a star new created, and made of God, the which when he had done his office was brought again into the matter whereof it was first formed. And this star was this that Fulgentius saith: It differenced from the other stars in three things. First, in situation, for it was not fixed in the firmament, but it hung in the air nigh to the earth. Secondly, in clearness, for it was shining more than the others. It appeared so that the clearness of the sun might not hurt nor appale her light, but at plain mid-day it had right great light and clearness. Thirdly, in moving, for it went alway before the kings in manner of one going in the way, ne it had none turning as a circle turneth, but in such manner as a person goeth in the way. And when the kings were issued out of Jerusalem, and set in their way, they saw the star whereof they had lost the sight, and were greatly enjoyed.
And we ought to note that there be five manners of stars that these kings saw. The first is material, the second spiritual, the third intellectual, the fourth reasonable, the fifth substantial. The first, that is material, they saw in the East; the second, that is spiritual, they saw in heart, and that is in the faith. For if this faith had not been in their hearts that had lighted them, they had never seen the star material. They had faith of the humanity when they said: Where is he that is born? and of his royal dignity when they called him King of Jews, and of his deity when they said they went to worship him. The third intellectual, which is, that the angel that they saw in vision, when it was by the angel showed to them that they should not return by Herod, how be it that after one gloss it was our Lord that warned them. The fourth, that was reasonable, that was the Virgin Mary whom they saw in the stable holding her child. The fifth, that is substantial, that is to say that he had substance above all other singular. And that was Jesu Christ whom they saw in the crib. And hereof is it said in the gospel that they entered into the house and found the child with Mary his mother, and then they worshipped him. And when they were entered into the house secretly and had found the child, they kneeled and offered to him these three gifts, that is to wit gold, incense, and myrrh. And this saith Saint Austin: O infantia, cui astra subduntur, etc. O infancy or childhood, to whom the stars be subject, to whose clothes angels bow, the stars give virtue, the kings joy, and the followers of wisdom bow their knees. O blessed tigury or little house, O holy seat of God. And Saint Jerome saith: This is an heaven where is no light but the star. O palace celestial in which thou dwellest, not as King adorned with precious stones, but incorporate. To whom, for a soft bed was duresse and hard crib, for curtains of gold and silk, the fume and stench of dung, but the star of heaven was clearly embellished. I am abashed when I behold these clothes and see the heaven. The heart burneth me for hete when I see him in the crib, a poor mendicant, and over him the stars. I see him right clear, right noble, and right rich. O ye kings, what do ye? Ye worship the child in a little foul house wrapped in foul clouts. Is he then not God? Ye offer to him gold, and whereof is he King, and where is his royal hall? Where is his throne? Where is his court royal, frequented and used with nobles? The stable is that not his hall? And his throne the rack or crib? They that frequent this court, is it not Joseph and Mary? they be as unwitting, to the end that they become wise. Of whom saith Hilary in his second book that he made of the Trinity: The Virgin hath borne a child, but this that she hath childed is of God; the child is Iying in the rack, and the angels be heard singing and praising him, the clothes be foul, and God is worshipped. The dignity of his puissance is not taken away though the humility of his flesh is declared. Lo, how in this child Jesus were not only the humble and small things, but also the rich, and the noble, and the high things. And hereof saith Saint Jerome upon the Epistle ad Hebreos: Thou beholdest the rack of Jesu Christ; see also the heaven. Thou seest also the child Iying in the crib, but take heed also how the angels sing and praise God. Herod is persecuted and the kings worship the child. The pharisees knew him not, but the star showed him. He is baptized of his servant, but the voice of the Father is heard above thundering. He is plunged in the water, but the Holy Ghost The descended upon him in likeness of a dove.
And of the cause wherefore these kings offered these gifts, many reasons be assigned. One of the causes is, as saith Remigius the doctor, that the ancient ordinance was that no man should come to God ne to the king with a void hand, but that he brought him some gift. And they of Chaldea were accustomed to offer such gifts. They, as Scholastica Historia saith, came from the end of Persia, from the Chaldeans whereas is the flood of Saba, of which flood the region of Saba is named. The second reason is of Saint Bernard: For they offered to Mary, the mother of the child, gold for to relieve her poverty, incense against the stench of the stable and evil air, myrrh for to comfort the tender members of the child and to put away vermin. The third reason was that they offered gold for to pay the tribute, the incense for to make sacrifice, the myrrh for the sepulture of dead men. The fourth for the gold signifieth dilection or love; the incense, orison or prayer; the myrrh, of the flesh mortification. And these three things ought we offer to God. The fifth because by these three be signified three things that be in Jesu Christ: The precious deity, the soul full of holiness, and the entire flesh all pure and without corruption. And these three things be signified that were in the ark of Moses. The rod which flourished, that was the flesh of Jesu Christ that rose from death to life; the tables wherein the commandments were written, that is the soul, wherein be all the treasures of sapience and science of godhead. The manna signifieth the godhead, which hath all sweetness of suavity. By the gold which is most precious of all metals is understood the Deity; by the incense the soul right devout, for the incense signifieth devotion and orison; by the myrrh which preserveth from corruption, is understood the flesh which was without corruption. And the kings when they were admonished and warned by revelation in their sleep that they should not return by Herod, and by another way they should return into their country, lo hear then how they came and went in their journey. For they came to adore and worship the King of kings in their proper persons, by the star that led them, and by the prophet that enseigned and taught them. And by the warning of the angel returned and rested at their death in Jesu Christ. Of whom the bodies were brought to Milan, where as now is the convent of the friars preachers, and now be at Cologne in Saint Peter’s Church, which is the Cathedral and See of the Archbishop. Then let us pray unto Almighty God that this day showed him to these kings and at his baptism, where the voice of the Father was heard and the Holy Ghost seen, and at the feast turned water into wine, and fed five thousand men, besides women and children, with five loaves and two fishes, that at the reverence of this high and great feast he forgive us our trespasses and sins, and after this short life we may come to his everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.
Here followeth the manner and form of seeking and offering; and also of the burying and translations of the three Holy and Worshipful Kings of Cologne: Jaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
Now when the Children of Israel were gone out of Egypt and had won and made subject to them Jerusalem and all the land lying about, so that no man durst set against them in all that country for dread that they had of them; then was there a little hill called Vaws, which was also called the Hill of Victory, and on this hill the ward of them of Ind was ordained and kept by divers sentinels by night and by day against the Children of Israel, and afterward against the Romans; so that if any people at any time purposed with strong hand to enter into the country of the Kingdom of Ind, anon, sentinels of other hills about, through tokens, warned the keepers on the hill of Vaws. And by night they made a great fire and by day they made a great smoke, for that hill Vaws passeth the height of all other hills in all the East. Wherefore, when any such token was seen, then all manner of men made ready to defend themselves from the enemy that approached.
Now in the time when Balaam prophesied of the Star that should betoken the coming of Christ, all the great lords and all the other people of Ind and in the East desired greatly to see the Star of which he spake, and gave gifts to the keepers of the hill of Vaws, and moreover hired them with great rewards, that, if it so were, they saw by day or by night, far or near, any light or any star in the air other than was seen beforetime, anon they should show and send them word. And thus was it that for so long a time the fame of this Star was borne through all the lands of the East; until, of the name of the hill of Vaws, arose up a worshipful and a great kindred in Ind, which is called the progeny of Vaws even unto this day; and there is not a more mighty kindred in all the kingdoms of the East; for this worshipful kindred came first from the King’s blood that was named Melchior, that offered gold to our Lord, as ye shall hereafter learn.
In the year of our Lord 1200, when the city of Acon, that in this country is called Akers, flourished and stood in virtue, joy, and prosperity, and was inhabited richly with worshipful princes, and lords, and divers orders of men of religion, and all manner of men of all nations and tongues, so that there was no city like unto it in nobility and might; then, because of its great name and of the marvels that were there, the greatest of birth that were of the progeny of Vaws came out of Ind unto Acon; and when they saw there all things more wonderful than in Ind; then, because of delight, they abode there and made a fair and strong castle for any king or lord. And they brought with them out of the East many rich and wonderful ornaments and jewels. And among all other jewels, they brought a diadem of gold arrayed with precious stones and pearls, and about its edge stood letters of Chaldaic, and a star made like after the Star that appeared to the Three Kings of the East when they sought God, with a sign of the cross, beside. And that diadem was Melchior’s, the king of Nubia and of Araby, that offered gold to the Babe in the manger. And afterward the master of the Order of Templars received this same diadem of gold and many other precious jewels; but when that Order was destroyed the diadem and precious ornaments were lost, and have never been found unto this day. Wherefore there was great sorrow made in all the country for a long time after.
But these same princes of Vaws brought with them out of Ind books written in Hebrew and Chaldaic, concerning the life and deeds of these three blessed Kings, which books were afterward translated into the French tongue: and so, from these books, and from hearsay, and sight, and also from sermons and homilies out of divers other works, the story here written hath been brought together into one book.
And you shall understand that the old kindred of Vaws beareth always in its banner, unto this day, a star with a sign of the cross, made after the same manner as it appeared to the three blessed Kings.
Now it so happened that after Balaam had prophesied of this Star, the more it was sought for the more its fame increased through the land of Ind and Chaldee, and all the people desired to see it.
So they ordained twelve of the wisest and greatest clerks of astronomy that were in all that country about, and gave them great hire to keep watch upon this hill of Vaws for the Star that was prophesied of Balaam. And the cause that there were ordained twelve men was, that if one man died another should be put in his stead; and also that some should keep watch at one time and some another—nevertheless the people looked not only after the Star, but after the Man who was betokened by the Star, the which Man should be Lord of all folk.
And they of Ind and Chaldee who came often into Jerusalem because of merchandise and also for disport—the which, for the most part, be learned in astronomy—said that in Ind were many stars in the firmament that might not be seen by night in Jerusalem; but, specially on this hill of Vaws in clear weather, were seen many and divers strange stars that at the foot of the hill were not seen. Yet this hill of Vaws hath no more breadth than a little chapel is made upon, the which the three worshipful kings did build of stone and timber. And there be about this hill many steps upon which men go up to the chapel on high, and also there grew many good trees and herbs and divers spices all about the hill—for else men might not well go upon this hill because it is so high and so narrow. There is also a pillar of stone made above this chapel, of wondrous height, and in the head of the pillar standeth a great star, well made of gilt, and which turneth with the wind as a vane: and through the light of the sun by day, and of the moon by night, this star gives light a great way about the country. And many other marvels are spoken of this hill of Vaws, the which were long to tell.
Now when the time of grace was come, that God would have mercy on all mankind, in which time the Father of Heaven sent down his Son to take flesh and blood and to be born a man for salvation of all the world: in that time Octavianus, that was Emperor of Rome, sent out a commandment that all the people within his empire should be counted and taxed; and every man went forth from his dwelling-place into his native country. Then came Joseph up from Nazareth unto Bethlehem the city of David, because he was of the household and race of King David, and with him came Mary that was his wife, and also great with child.
And you shall understand that Bethlehem was never of much reputation, neither a place of great quantity. It hath a good site and good ground, for there be many caves and dens under the earth thereabout; and it is distant from Jerusalem but two little miles; and it is but a castle, but is called a city because King David was born there. And in that town was sometime a house which belonged to Isai, the father of David, where David was born and anointed into the kingdom of Israel by Samuel the prophet. And in this same dwelling was the Son of Heaven born of Mary.
And this same house was at the end of a street that was in that time called the Covered Street, because, to keep out the great heat and burning of the sun, this street was canopied above with black cloths and other things,—for such is the use in that country always. And here was wont to be great bargaining, or a fair once a week of old clothes; and specially of trees or timber, by the little house which stood before a den under the earth, made and shaped like a little cellar, where Isai and others that dwelt there after him put certain necessaries that belonged to the household, against the heat of the sun. It is also the manner in all that country that there be certain houses, the which be called there alchan, that we call hostelries, and in these houses be mules, horses, asses, and camels always ready, that, if so that any merchant or any man that travelled by the way, be it far or near, need any beast for himself, or for his merchandise, then he goeth to such a house and there he may hire a horse, or what beast that he will, for a certain price. And when he hath such a beast then he goeth from that city to another, where to abide and rest him for a time. Then he dischargeth his beast of his burden, and so sendeth him to a house called there also alchan; and the master of the house giveth his beast meat, and, when he may, he sendeth it home to the same place that it came from.
And such a house was, before the birth of Christ, in the place where Christ was born; but, about the time of the Nativity, that house was all destroyed, insomuch that there was nothing left but broken walls on every side, and a little cave under earth, and a little unthrifty house before the cave: and there men sold bread on the same ground; for it is the usage in all that country that all the bread that is sold shall be brought unto a certain place.
Now when Octavianus had sent out a commandment as it is aforesaid, then went Joseph and Mary riding on an ass, late in the eventide, toward the city of Bethlehem, and because they came so late, and all places were occupied with pilgrims and other men, and also because they came in poor array and went about the city, none would receive them, and specially, men say, because that Mary, a young woman, sitting upon an ass, heavy and sorry, and full weary of the way, was near to the time of bearing of her child. Then Joseph led his wife into this shed that none took keep of, down into the little dark house, and there our Lord, Jesus Christ, the same night was born of the Virgin, without any disease or sorrow of her body, for salvation of all mankind.
And in that house, before the cave of old time, was left a manger of the length of a fathom, made in the wall; and to that same manger was an ox of a poor man tied, that none might harbor. And beside that ox Joseph tied his ass, and in that same manger Mary wrapped her blessed Son in cloths and laid Him on high before the ass and the ox,—for there was none other place.
And shepherds were fast by in the same country keeping their sheep in the night, and an angel of Heaven came and stood beside them with a great light, wherefore they were in much dread. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid, for I tell you a great joy that shall be to all people, for this day is born to us our Lord, Christ, in the city of David, and this shall be to you a token: Ye shall find a young child wrapped in cloths and put in a manger.” And then suddenly there came a great multitude of angels of Heaven praising God, who said: “Joy be to God on high and peace in earth to men of good will.”
Now the place where the angel appeared to the shepherds that night when Christ was born is but half a mile from Bethlehem, and in that same place David, when he was a child, fed sheep and kept them from the bear and the lion.
Some books say that the shepherds in that country, twice in the year, are wont to keep their sheep in the night, and, therein, times be when the day and the night are both of one length. And you shall understand that the land about Bethlehem is all mountainous for the most part, so that in some places a man shall not well know winter from summer, and in some places it is right cold, and some it is both winter and summer at one time, and sometimes on the mountains, in parts of the East, men shall find snow in the month of August, and that snow is gathered by them that dwell about, and put in caves, and afterward it is borne to the market, where the great lords of the country will buy it, and take it to their houses, and set it in a basin upon their board to make their drink cold.
In September and October, when the sun cometh a little low in that country, then seeds and all manner of herbs commonly begin to wax in the fields, as in this country herbs begin to grow in March and April; also in some parts of the East they reap corn in April and in March, but most in May, as in some places the ground is higher, in some places lower; but beside Bethlehem are many more places of good pasture and of flat ground than elsewhere: insomuch that at Christmas-tide barley beginneth to ear and to wax ripe; and then men send thither, from divers countries, their horses and mules, to make them fat: and that time we call among us Christmas, they call, in their language, the time of herbage. And forasmuch as when Christ was born, peace was in all the world, and betwixt Bethlehem and that place where the angel appeared to the shepherds was but half a mile and a little way more, and also there was no great cold thereabout, therefore the shepherds, all that winter night and day, now in one place, now in another, dwelled there with their sheep, and so they do yet to this day.
Now when Christ was born of the Virgin Mary for salvation of all mankind, then His Star, that was prophesied of Balaam and long awaited and looked for by the twelve astronomers on the hill of Vaws, at that same night and at that same hour, began to arise in the manner of a sun, bright shining; and so after, in the form of an eagle, it ascended above the hill of Vaws. And all that day in highest air it abode without moving, insomuch that when the sun was most hot and most high there was no difference in shining betwixt them.
But when the day of the Nativity was passed, the Star ascended up into the firmament, and it was nothing like to stars that be painted in divers places, for it had right many long streaks and beams, more burning and lighter than a brand of fire; and, as an eagle flying and beating the air with his wings, right so the streaks and beams of the Star stirred it about. And it had in itself the form and likeness of a young child, and above him a sign of the holy cross, and a voice was heard in the Star, saying: “This day is born to us the King of Jews that folk have awaited, and Lord is of them. Go and seek Him and do Him worship!”
Then all the people, both man and woman, of all the country about, when they saw this wonderful and marvellous Star and also heard the voice out of the Star, were greatly aghast and had wonder thereof; but yet they knew well that it was the Star that was prophesied by Balaam, and long time was desired of all the people in that country.
Now when the three worshipful Kings who in that time reigned in Ind, Chaldee, and Persia were informed, by the astronomers, of this Star, they were right glad that they had grace to see the Star in their days. Wherefore these three worshipful Kings, though each of them was far from the other, and none knew of the other’s purpose, yet in the same hour the Star appeared to all three, and then they ordained and purposed them, with great and rich gifts and many rich and diverse ornaments that belong to a king’s array, and also with mules and camels and horses charged with treasure, and with a great multitude of people, to go seek and worship the Lord and King of the Jews that was new born, as the voice of the Star had commanded. And furthermore they arrayed themselves the much more honestly and worshipfully, because they knew well that he was a worthier King than any of them was.
And you shall understand that there be three Indias, of which these three lords were kings; and all the lands for the most part are islands, and there are also there great waters and wildernesses full of wild and perilous beasts and horrible serpents, and there grow also reeds so high and so great that men make thereof houses and ships. And these isles are divided every one by itself far from the others, so that only with great travail shall a man pass from one kingdom to another.
Now, in the first Ind was the land of Nubia, and therein reigned King Melchior, in the time that Christ was born. Therein also is the land of Araby, in which is the hill Sinai: and a man may lightly sail by the Red Sea out of Egypt and Syria into Ind. In this land is found gold wonderfully red, like thin and small roots, and that gold is the best that is in the world. Herein is also a hill called Bena, where is found a precious stone, called smaragd.
In the second Ind was the kingdom of Godolia, of which Balthazar was king when Christ was born; and this Balthazar offered incense to the Babe; for in this land many more good spices grow than in all the countries of the East, and especially incense, more than in all places of the world; and it droppeth down out of certain trees in the manner of gum.
In the third Ind was the kingdom of Thaars. Of that kingdom was Jaspar king at the birth of Christ. And Jaspar offered myrrh to the young Child, and in this land is the isle of Egrisoulla, where groweth myrrh more plentifully than in any place of the world, and it waxeth like ears of corn that are burnt with the weather, and right thick; and when it is ripe it is so soft that it cleaveth to men’s clothes as they go by the way.
Now when these three worshipful Kings were passed forth out of their kingdoms, the Star evenly went before each King and his people, and when they stood still and rested the Star stood still, and when they went forward again the Star always went before them in virtue and strength, and gave light all the way. And, as it is written before, in the time that Christ was born there was peace in all the world, wherefore in all the cities and towns which they went through there was no gate shut neither by night nor by day; and all men of the cities and towns that these worthy Kings went through in the night were wonderfully aghast and passingly marvelled thereof, for they saw kings and vast multitudes go by in great haste; but they knew not what they were, nor whence they came, nor whither they should go. On the morrow the way was greatly befouled with horses’ hoofs, whereof they were in much doubt what it might mean, and great altercation was among them for a long time.
Furthermore, these Kings rode forth over hills, waters, valleys, plains, and other divers and perilous places without hindrance or disease, for all the way seemed to them plain and even, and they never took shelter by night nor by day; nor ever rested; nor did their horses or other beasts ever eat or drink till they had come to Bethlehem; and all this time seemed to them but a day.
And thus, through the mercy of God and the leading of the Star, they came unto Jerusalem and Bethlehem the thirteenth day after Christ was born, at the uprising of the sun, whereof is no doubt: for they found Mary and her son in the same place where the Child was born, and laid in the manger.
But when the three blessed Kings, with their host and company were almost come to Jerusalem, saving but two miles, then a great and dark cloud held all the earth, and in that dark cloud they lost the Star. And Melchior with his people was come fast by Jerusalem beside the hill of Calvary, where Christ was afterward crucified; and there the King abode in a cloud of fog and in darkness.
At that time the hill of Calvary was a rock of twelve degrees high, where thieves and other men for divers trespasses were put to death; and there was beside this hill a place where three highways met together. But because of the darkness of the cloud, and also because they knew not the way, they abode there, and went no further at that time.
And next came Balthazar, and he abode under the same cloud, beside the Mount of Olives in a little town that is called Galilee.
Then, when the two Kings were come to these places, the cloud began to ascend and wax clear, yet the Star appeared not. But when they saw that they were near to the city of Jerusalem, knowing not each other, they took their way thither with all their folk; and when they came where the three ways met, then also appeared King Jaspar with all his host. And so these three glorious Kings, each with his host and burdens and beasts, met together in the highway beside the Hill of Calvary. And, notwithstanding that none of them ever before had seen the other, nor knew him, nor had heard of his coming, yet, at their meeting, each one with reverence and joy kissed the other. And they were of diverse language, yet all, seeming, used the same tongue.
So, afterward, when they had spoken together and each had told his purpose and the cause of his journey, and the cause of all was learned to be the same, then they were much more glad and more fervent. And so they rode forth, and suddenly, at the uprising of the sun, they came into the city of Jerusalem. And when they knew that this was the city which the Chaldeans of old time had besieged and destroyed, they were right glad, expecting to have found the King born in that city. But Herod and all his people were greatly disturbed at their sudden coming, for their company and beasts of burden were of so great a number that the city might not receive them, but for the most part they lay without the gates all about, whereof Isaias prophesied: “The strength of folk cometh to thee—that is to say, to the City of Jerusalem—great plenty of camels shall do thee service, and dromedaries of Madyan and Effa shall come to thee. All men shall come from Saba, bringing gold and incense and showing praise to God.”
So, these three worshipful Kings, when they were come into the city, asked of the people concerning the Child that was born; and, when Herod heard this, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him, and he gathered together all his princes and priests and asked them where Christ should be born, and they said: “In Bethlehem of Judea.” Then Herod privily summoned to him these three Kings, and learned of them the time that the Star appeared, and so sent them forth unto Bethlehem, saying: “Go and inquire busily of this Child, and when you have found Him, come and tell me, that I may go and do Him worship.”
Now when these three Kings were informed of the birth of Christ and of the place where He was born, and so were passed out of Jerusalem, then the Star appeared to them again as it did erst, and went before them till they came to Bethlehem. And fast by that place were the shepherds to whom the angel appeared with great light, showing them the birth of Christ. And the three Kings spake with them, and when the shepherds saw the Star they run together and told how the angel had appeared to them, and furthermore all that the angel had spoken to them. And the Kings were wondrous glad, and with good cheer heard and took consideration of the shepherds’ words; and so from witness, and from the words of the shepherds and from the voice of the angel that was heard out of the Star, they had no doubt of the thing. Then anon, when they knew that they were come to Bethlehem, they got down from their horses and changed all their array, and clothed themselves in the best and richest that they had, as kings should be clothed—and always the Star went forth before them.
Now the nearer the Kings came to the place where Christ was born the brighter shined the Star, and they entered Bethlehem the sixth hour of the day. And then they rode through the covered street till they came before that little house. And there the Star stood still, and then descended and shone with so great a light that the little house and the cave within were full of radiance, till anon the Star again went upward into the air, and stood still always above the same place, yet the light ever remained in the house where Christ and Mary were. So as it is said in the Gospel: “They went into the house and found the Child, and fell down and worshipped Him, and offered to Him gifts of gold, myrrh, and incense.”
Of this example came afterward a usage, that in all the countries of the East no man should go into the presence of the Sultan, but he brought gold or silver or somewhat else in his hands; and, also, ere he spoke to the Sultan he should kiss the ground, and this is a custom which is used in all the countries of the East to this day. But the Franciscan friars, when they approached the Sultan, offered to him only pears or apples, for they might not touch gold nor silver; and these offerings were received by the Sultan with all reverence and meekness.
Now on the day that the three Kings sought Christ and worshipped Him, He was a little child of thirteen days old, and He was somewhat fat, and lay wrapped in poor clothes in the hay of the manger up to His arms. And Mary, His Mother, as it is written in divers books, was, in person, fleshy and somewhat brown. In the presence of the three Kings she was covered with a poor white mantle, which she held close before her with her left hand. Her head was concealed altogether, save her face, with a linen cloth; and she sat upon the manger and with her right hand held up the young Child’s head. And the Kings worshipped Him and kissed His hand devoutly and laid their gifts beside His head.
But what was done with these gifts, ye shall learn hereafter.
Now Melchior, that offered gold to the Holy Child, was the least in stature and person of the three Kings. Balthazar, that offered incense, was of a medium stature; and Jaspar, that offered myrrh, was most in person; whereof is no doubt, for the prophet saith: “Before Him shall fall down Ethiops, and His enemies shall lick the earth. They shall come to Thee that betrayed Thee, and they shall worship the steps of Thy feet.” And having regard to the stature of men of that time these Kings were right little of person, insomuch that all manner of people marvelled at them. And this showed well that they were come from far out of the East, for the nearer toward the uprising of the sun that men be born, the less they be of stature and be feebler and more tender.
And you shall understand that these three Kings brought out of their lands many gifts and rich ornaments which King Alexander left in Ind, in Chaldee, and in Persia; and all the ornaments which Queen Saba found in Solomon’s temple, and divers vessels that were of the king’s house and the Temple of God in Jerusalem, which, in the time of its destruction, were borne into their countries by the Persians and Chaldeans, and many other jewels, both gold and silver, and precious stones, brought they with them to offer to Christ. But when they found our Lord laid on high in the manger and in poor cloths, and the Star that gave so great light in all the place, that it seemed as though they stood in a furnace of fire, then these Kings were so sore afraid that, of all the rich jewels and ornaments they brought with them, they chose nothing, when their treasury was opened, but what came first to their hands, for Melchior took a round apple of gold, as much as a man might hold in his hand, and thirty gilt pennies, and these he offered to our Lord. Balthazar took out of his treasury incense; and Jaspar took out myrrh, as it came first, and that he offered, with weeping and tears.
And the Kings were so aghast and so devout and fervent in their oblations, that to all the words that Mary said they gave but little consideration, save only that to every King as he offered his gifts she bowed down her head meekly, and said, “Deo gracias:” that is to say, “I thank God.”
When these three Kings had thus performed their way and will, and done all things that they came for, then, as mankind asketh and would, they and all their men and beasts began to eat, and drink, and sleep, and betook them to rest and sport all that day in Bethlehem. For, as is said before, they had neither eaten nor drunk during thirteen days. And then they meekly told to all men in that city how wonderfully the Star had brought them thither from the furthest part of the world.
Now, as the Evangelist saith: A command came to these Kings in their sleep that they should not return again to Herod, and so, by another way, they went home to their kingdoms. But the Star that went before them, appeared no more. And so these three Kings, that suddenly met together at the Mount of Calvary, rode home together with great joy and honor, and rested by the way as men should do.
And they rode through the provinces that Holofernes of old time had traversed with all his hosts, and the people supposed that Holofernes had come again, for as they journeyed into any town they were meekly and worshipfully received, and evermore they told what they had seen, done, and heard, so that their name and praise were never after forgot. But the way that before had taken only thirteen days, through leading of the Star, they found now to take two years, which was ordained, that all men should know what difference is between God’s working and man’s.
Now, when Herod and the scribes heard that the Kings were gone home again, and came not to him as he had bade them, then, of much envy and malice, he pursued them a great way; and always he found the people bless them, and praise them, and tell of their nobility. Wherefore Herod burnt and destroyed all the land that was under his power where the Kings had ridden, and especially Tharsis and Cilicia, for he charged them that they had suffered the three Kings privily to pass across the sea in their ships. And Herod’s envy was great when he heard how marvellously the Kings had come out of their lands in thirteen days through leading of the Star, and how, afterward, they went home again, without the Star, through guides and interpreters,—yet no man could tell, for wonder, how night and day they passed by; and for this reason the paynims, who had no knowledge of Holy Writ, nor of the birth of Christ, called these three Kings Magos; that is to say, Wise Men of the East.
Now, when the Kings were come with great travail to the Hill of Vaws, they made there, as is aforesaid, a fair chapel in worship of the Child they had sought. Also they made a covenant to meet together at the same place once in the year; and there they ordained their burial. Then all the princes and lords and worshipful knights of their kingdoms, hearing of the return of these three Kings, anon rode forth to them with great, solemnity and met them at the place aforesaid, and with meekness and humility received them. And when they heard how wonderfully God had wrought for their Kings, they held them in more reverence, love, and dread forever after.
So, when the Kings had done what they would, they took leave of each other, and each one, with his people, rode home to his own land with great joy.
And when they were come into their own realms, they preached to all the people what they had seen and done on their journey; and they made in their temples a star after the likeness of that which appeared to them, wherefore many paynims left their errors and worshipped the Holy Child.
And thus these three worshipful Kings dwelt in their kingdoms in honest and devout conversation until the coming of Saint Thomas, the apostle.
Now, after the three Kings had gone forth from Bethlehem, there began to wax, all about, a great fame for Mary and her Child, and for the Kings of the East. Wherefore, Mary, in dread of persecution, fled out of the little house where Christ was born, and went to another dark cave and there abode; and divers men and women loved her and ministered to her all manner of necessaries. But when she went out of the little house, Mary forgot and left behind her her smock and the clothes in which Christ was wrapped, folded together and laid in the manger; and there they were, whole and fresh, in the same place to the time when Saint Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, came thither, long after.
Anon so great was grown Mary’s fame that she durst not abide longer there for dread of Herod and the Jews, and an angel appeared to Joseph, saying: “Arise, and take the Child and His mother and flee into Egypt, and tarry there till I summon thee, for it is to come that Herod shall seek the Child to slay Him.” Then Joseph arose and took the Child and His mother and went into Egypt in the night, and there he remained until Herod died. And Mary and her Son dwelt in Egypt seven years.
And it is told that by the road which Mary journeyed thither and came back again, grew roses, which are called the Roses of Jericho, and they grow in no other place. The shepherds of that country, in following their sheep, gather these roses in their season, and sell them to pilgrims, and thus they be borne into divers lands. And the place where Mary dwelt is now a garden where groweth balm, and to every bush a Christian man, among the Sultan’s prisoners, is assigned to protect it and keep it clean; for when a paynim keepeth them, anon the bushes wax dry and grow no more. And this balm hath many virtues the which were long to tell; but all men in the East believe truly that the place bears such a virtue of growing balm because Mary dwelt there seven years, and washed and bathed her Son in its wells of water.
And as to the gifts which the three Kings gave to Christ: the thirty gilt pennies of Melchior were made of old by Thara, father of Abraham, and Abraham bare them with him when he went on pilgrimage out of the land of Chaldee into Ebron, which was then called Arabia, and there he bought with them a burial-place for himself, his wife, and his children, Isaac and Jacob. In exchange for the same thirty pieces Joseph was sold by his brethren to merchants of Egypt. Afterward, when Jacob died, they were sent to the land of Sheba to buy divers spices and ornaments for his sepulture, and so they were put into the king’s treasury of that land. Then by process of time, in Solomon’s reign, the Queen of Sheba offered these thirty gilt pennies, with many rich jewels, in the Temple at Jerusalem; but in the time of Roboam, King Solomon’s son, when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple despoiled, they were carried to the King of Arabia, and were put into his treasury with other spoils from the Temple.
And Melchior offered these same thirty pieces to Christ, because they were of the finest gold, and the best that he had. But when Mary went into Egypt she lost all the gifts of the three Kings by the way, bound all in one cloth together. And it happened there was a shepherd who had so great an infirmity that no leech might heal him, and all that he had he paid to the leeches to be whole,—yet it might not be. But, on a time, as he went into the fields with his sheep, he found these thirty gilt pennies, with incense and myrrh, bound all in a cloth together, and he kept them privily to himself, until, hearing tell of a holy prophet that healed all men of their infirmities by a word, he came to Christ and prayed Him for grace and help; and, being healed, he offered the gold, and incense, and myrrh to Him with good devotion. And when Christ saw the thirty gilt pennies and precious herbs He knew them well, and bade the shepherd go into the Temple and offer them upon the altar.
Now, when the priest saw such oblations laid upon the altar he marvelled much, and took all three things and put them in the common treasury. And afterward, when Judas Iscariot came into the Temple to make covenant with the Princes of the Law to betray his master, they gave him for his pay the same thirty pieces of gold, and for them Judas sold his Master. And after Christ was crucified, then Judas repented, and went to the Temple and cast down to the Princes of the Law the thirty pieces. And with fifteen of these gilt pennies the Jews bought a field of burial for pilgrims; and the other fifteen they gave to the knights who kept the sepulchre of Christ.
And the reason these thirty gilt pennies were called silver in the Gospel, notwithstanding they were fine gold, is, that it is the common usage in that country so to call them, as men in this country call gold from beyond the sea scutys, motouns or florins; moreover in the East the same print is made in gold and silver and copper, and the print on the thirty pieces is this: on one side is a king’s head crowned, and on the other are written letters in Chaldaic, which men now cannot read. And many marvels are told of these pieces of gold which were long to tell.
How when Our Lord was ascended into heaven, then he sent Saint Thomas, his apostle, into Ind, to preach there God’s word. And as Saint Thomas went about in the temples he found a star in every one, painted after the manner of the Star that appeared to the three Kings when Christ was born, in which Star was a sign of the Cross and a Child above. And when Saint Thomas saw this he asked of the bishops what it was, and they told him that such a Star of old time appeared on the Hill of Vaws in token of a Child that was born who should be king of the Jews, as was heard spoken out of the same Star.
And when Saint Thomas had preached and taught the people the understanding of this Star and of the Cross and the Child, then he went to the kingdoms of the three Kings, and he found them whole of body and of a great age. And Saint Thomas christened these three Kings and all their people, and the Kings began anon to preach with the Apostle, and when they had converted the people to the law of Christ he ordained them to be Archbishops. And after this Saint Thomas was slain, and in all that country where he was martyred both men and women have visages shaped like hounds, yet they be not hairy—and they are so unto this day.
Now under the Hill of Vaws Saint Thomas and these three Kings had made a rich city and called it Sewill, and this city is the best and richest city in all the country of Ind to this day; and therein is the habitation of Prester John that is called lord of Ind, and there dwelleth also the Patriarch of Ind who is called Thomas, in worship of Saint Thomas and for an everlasting memorial. And when all things were disposed by these three Kings they went to the city of Sewill, and there they lived twelve years.
And a little before the feast of Christ’s nativity, when these years were drawn to an end, there appeared a wonderful star above this city and the Kings knew that their time was nigh when they should pass out of this world. Then of one assent they ordained a fair and large tomb for their burial in the church they had made in the city; and in the feast of Christmas they did, solemnly, God’s service.
And in the feast of the Circumcision, Melchior, King of Araby, laid him down before all his people and without any disease yielded up his spirit, in the year of his age one hundred and sixteen. Then in the feast of Epiphany, five days thereafter, Balthazar, King of Godolie and Saba, died in the year of his age one hundred and twelve. And then Jaspar the third king, the sixth day after was taken into everlasting joy, and they were all buried in the same tomb that they had ordained; and the Star that appeared over the city before their death, abode always till their bodies were translated unto Cologne, as they of Ind tell.
Now after much time had passed, Queen Helen, the mother of the glorious Emperor Constantine, began to think greatly of the bodies of these three Kings, and she arrayed her with certain people and went into the land of Ind. And she had much praise among the people because of the finding of Mary’s smock and the cloths that Christ was wound in in his childhood; and seeing that she was worshipped of all people, the Patriarch Thomas and Prester John, took counsel of other lords and princes and gave her the bodies of King Melchior and King Balthazar. But the Nestorines had borne the body of the third king, King Jaspar, into the isle of Egrisoulla. And these Nestorines were the worst heretics of the world. For the most part they were black Ethiops, who painted Christ and His Mother Mary and the three Kings in their churches all in black, and the Devil all white, in despite of all other Christian men. But because Queen Helen wished not that the three Kings should be parted, she made many prayers and gave great gifts to the chief lords of the isle of Egrisoulla, and thus anon did she get the body of King Jaspar.
And you shall understand that after she had found the bodies of all these three Kings, Queen Helen put them into one chest and arrayed it with great riches, and she brought them unto Constantinople with joy and reverence, and laid them in a church that is called Saint Sophia; and this church King Constantine did make—and he alone, with a little child, set up all the pillars of marble.
Now after the death of this worshipful King Constantine and Queen Helen aforesaid, there began a new persecution of heresy against the Christian faith, and of death against them that would maintain the law of Christ. The Greeks forsook the Church and chose a Patriarch for themselves, whom they yet obey until this day.
Now in this persecution the bodies and the relics of the three holy Kings were put at no reverence, but utterly set at naught. For the Saracens and Turks at this time won with strong battle the lands of Greece and Armenia, and destroyed a great part of these lands.
Then came an Emperor of Rome who was called Mauricius, and through the help of them of Milan he recovered all these lands again, and, as is said among men in that country, through counsel of this Emperor the bodies of the three Kings were carried unto Milan, and they were there laid with all solemnity and worship in a fair church which is called after Saint Eustorgio, because he had asked the bodies from the Emperor, and being granted them had sent them unto Milan.
Then afterward by process of time, it happed that the city of Milan began to rebel against the Emperor, who was called Frederick I, and this Emperor sent to the Archbishop of Cologne, who was called Rainald, for help. Then this Archbishop, through help of divers lords of the land of Milan, took the city of Milan and destroyed a great part thereof. And the chief men of the city took the bodies of the three Kings and hid them privily in the earth.
Now among all others there was in Milan a lord named Asso, and the Emperor hated him more than all the rest of its people. So it happed that in the destruction of the city the Archbishop won Asso’s palace through strong hand, and lived therein a great while, for Asso was taken and put into prison.
Then, anon, Asso sent privily by his keepers to the Archbishop of Cologne and prayed him that he would come and speak with him, and it was granted that Asso should go to the Archbishop. And when he was come to him, he prayed him that, if he would get him grace of the Emperor and his love and the restoration of his lordship, he would give him the bodies of the three Kings.
When the Archbishop heard this, he went to the Emperor and prayed for Lord Asso, and got him grace and love. And when this was done, Asso brought, secretly, the three bodies of the Kings to the Archbishop of Cologne.
Then the Archbishop sent the bodies forth, by private means, a great way out of the city of Milan, whereupon he went to the Emperor anew and prayed him that he would grant him these three bodies, and the Emperor did so with good will. Then the Archbishop openly, with great solemnity and procession, brought the three holy Kings unto Cologne, and there put them in the fair church of Saint Peter, worshipfully; and all the people of the country, with all the reverence they might, received these holy relics; and there they are kept and beholden of all manner of nations unto this day.
Thus endeth the translation of these Three Worshipful Kings: Melchior, Balthazar, and Jaspar.
– the text of “The Three Kings of Cologne”, by John of Hildesheim was written in the 14th century; this version was taken from the book , 1891
SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/1/061.html
C’è un uomo, al Tempio di Gerusalemme, che da
lunghi anni attende il Messia, l’Inviato di Dio. Si chiama Simeone e, 40 giorni
dopo la sua nascita, riconosce il Messia nel Bambino Gesù che gli viene
presentato da due umili sposi, Maria e Giuseppe. Gli dice in faccia chi è: il
Salvatore atteso, la Luce per le genti (i pagani), la Gloria del suo popolo
Israele (cf. Lc 2,29-33) ma non dimentica di dirgli – di dire a sua Madre – che
sarà “la rovina e la risurrezione di molti in Israele, e segno di
contraddizione... E a te una spada trafiggerà l’anima” (cf. Lc 2,34-35).
Manifestato alle genti
“Gesù, Luce per le genti”. Le genti erano già in cammino. Alla sua nascita – scrive l’evangelista Matteo – al suo nascere, videro una misteriosa stella: la videro alcuni Magi, studiosi di stelle, come sovente si trovava nell’Oriente della Mesopotamia e della Persia, e si misero in cammino, illuminati da presagi – o vaticini – che essi conoscevano, quali uomini di cultura.
Alla nascita di Gesù arrivano i Magi, ossia i dotti dell’Oriente. Alla sua morte-risurrezione, Gesù si manifesta ai Greci, ossia i “filosofi dell’Occidente”. Prima che a loro, si è manifestato ai pastori – gli ultimi del suo popolo – ma il Salmista aveva predetto che i signori dell’Oriente sarebbero venuti a rendere omaggio all’Emmanuele: il Dio-con-noi.
Seguendo la stella, i Magi si recano a Gerusalemme per chiedere al re della Giudea, Erode il Grande (grande per le sue malefatte!), dove fosse nato il Re che deve venire. «Alcuni Magi, venuti dall’Oriente, giunsero a Gerusalemme e domandarono: “Dov’è il nato Re dei giudei? Perché noi abbiamo visto la sua stella in Oriente e siamo venuti per adorarlo”» (Mt 2,1-2). Erode è esterrefatto e trema a sentire parlare di un nuovo Re, lui che ha fatto uccidere i suoi figli per la paura di perdere il trono.
Era stata una stella a guidarli: ai pagani Dio aveva parlato per mezzo della natura e degli studiosi; agli Ebrei attraverso i profeti da Lui inviati. Ora il tempo era maturo per la venuta del Messia (si compiva la profezia delle 70 settimane di anni, di Daniele 9,20-27) e il mondo intero lo sapeva. Anche Atene e Roma, nella loro migliore élite, lo sapevano: si vedano gli scritti di Cicerone, di Virgilio, di Tacito.
Ebbene, proprio perché astrologi, la sottile traccia di Verità presente nella scienza delle loro stelle fece partire i Magi alla ricerca dell’unica vera Stella, l’Inviato di Dio, l’Atteso. Sebbene provenienti da una terra dedita al culto delle stelle, saputo da Erode e dai dotti di Gerusalemme che il Re-Messia doveva nascere a Betlemme, si rimettono in cammino, alla luce della misteriosa stella che ora era riapparsa, e adorano Colui che aveva creato le stelle, l’universo, e l’uomo, con un unico fine: tutto è stato creato per Lui, Gesù, il Cristo, l’uomo-Dio.
Matteo, il primo evangelista, che scrive per
quegli ebrei che sono diventati cristiani, continua a narrare: «Vedendo la
stella, i Magi provarono una grande gioia, ed entrati nella casa, trovarono il
bambino con Maria sua madre, e prostratisi lo adorarono. Aperti i loro scrigni,
gli offrirono in dono oro, incenso e mirra» (Mt 2,10-11). Il più grande
profeta, Isaia, circa 700 anni prima, quando Roma stava per nascere (753 a.C.)
aveva vaticinato: «Un’onda di cammelli ti coprirà (o Gerusalemme), i dromedari
di Madian e di Efa, verranno tutti quelli di Saba, recando oro e incenso e
annunziando le lodi del Signore» (Is 60,6).
Ora tutto era avvenuto: l’Epifania (la manifestazione) dell’uomo-Dio si era compiuta, anche per i pagani. Ma già aleggia l’ombra – forse è meglio dire la luce – della Croce.
Tre doni offrono al piccolo Re neonato: l’oro per
onorare la sua regalità, l’incenso per onorare la sua divinità, la mirra per
onorare la sua umanità destinata al sacrificio, al dolore, alla morte, perché
Lui era chiamato ad essere “signum contraddicetur”, segno di contraddizione,
causa di rovina e di risurrezione a seconda di chi lo rifiuta o lo accoglie.
Per la sua sepoltura, di lì a 33 anni, si userà la mirra: anche nell’Epifania
come nel Natale, la culla e la Croce sono congiunte tra di loro, e già tutto
invita all’offerta, al sacrificio con Gesù.
Profumo di martirio
Già abbiamo scritto che Erode, alla domanda dei Magi: «Dov’è il Nato-Re dei Giudei?», fu preso da furia mal celata, anzi presto divampante. Erode si spaventa e, come gli uomini soltanto carnali, manca della luce dello spirito e pensa subito che quel Re, appena nato, sia un re politico, venuto a soppiantarlo. Saputo dai dotti del Tempio che doveva nascere a Betlemme, trasmette la notizia ai Magi, illudendoli che anche lui sarebbe andato ad adorarlo. Ma dentro Erode è l’omicida che è sempre stato.
«Erode, vedendo che i Magi si erano presi gioco di lui [non erano più passati a informarlo sul Re-Bambino], andò su tutte le furie e ordinò che in Betlemme e nei dintorni fossero uccisi tutti i bambini maschi, dai due anni in giù, corrispondenti al tempo in cui era stato informato dai Magi» (Mt 2,16).
Così Erode sarà nel tempo il tipo di chi indaga sull’uomo-Dio, ma non agisce in coerenza e in base alla conoscenza che ne riceve. Così i despoti si compiacciono nell’affermare che il Cristianesimo è nemico dello Stato: un modo di dire che a loro stessi è nemico. Erode è il primo dei despoti a pensarla così: a vedere in Gesù un nemico prima ancora che compia i due anni. Ma può un bambino, nato poverissimo in una grotta, scrollare il potere e i regni? Perché Erode ordina ai suoi soldati di impugnare la spada contro il piccolo Gesù?
Dev’essere per questo: che coloro i quali sono oppressi dallo spirito del mondo – un mondo che si vuole senza Dio – hanno un odio istintivo per quel Dio che si è fatto uomo per regnare sulle anime e legarle a sé con la sua regalità divina, che poi, dalle anime, dilaga sui popoli e sulle nazioni, per renderli pieni della Sua dignità e liberi della libertà dei figli di Dio. L’odio e la beffa che il secondo Erode avrebbe dimostrato per Lui aveva avuto il suo inizio nell’odio che il padre suo, Erode il Grande, aveva già sfogato per il Bambino Gesù.
Erode teme che Colui che era venuto a portare una corona celeste, possa rapirgli il regno terreno; falso come Giuda, promette ai Magi di portare i suoi doni al Re neonato, ma il suo unico dono è l’omicidio, anzi l’infanticidio, la morte cruenta degli Innocenti. Così prima che Gesù compia due anni, a causa sua si sparge sangue innocente. Il primo attentato alla sua vita; al Maestro e Uomo adulto, i Giudei, colmi di rabbia, daranno, cercheranno di dare, sassi (cf. Gv 8,59) e infine la morte più infame sulla Croce. Così il suo popolo l’avrebbe accolto: la sua prima manifestazione (epifania) è l’alba del Calvario.
Si applica a Lui, subito, la “legge del sacrificio”, la stessa legge che toccherà i suoi Apostoli e tanti suoi amici, nei secoli a venire, anche oggi, quando i cristiani sono ancora, nonostante tutti i proclamati diritti della persona, i più numerosi a essere martirizzati. Sono state così colpite giovanissime vite, che abbiamo commemorate nella festa degli Innocenti (28 dicembre). Quindi una croce per Pietro, il primo degli Apostoli, uno spintone dal pinnacolo del Tempio per Giacomo, l’altro apostolo, un pugnale per Bartolomeo, una spada per Paolo, l’Apostolo delle Genti. Già molte spade si erano calate sugli infanti di Betlemme.
A proposito scrive il venerbile Fulton J. Sheen, nella sua Vita di Cristo: «“Il mondo vi odierà”, promise Gesù a tutti quelli che recano il segno del suo sigillo. Quegli Innocenti morirono per il Re che non avevano ancora conosciuto. Come agnellini morirono per l’Agnello immacolato, esemplari di una lunga processione di martiri nei secoli. Come la circoncisione era il segno dell’Antica Legge, così la persecuzione a Cristo e ai suoi amici sarebbe stata il segno della Nuova Legge, della Nuova Alleanza sancita nel suo sangue sulla Croce».
“In mio nome – Egli disse agli Apostoli – sarete perseguitati”. Tutto attorno a Lui già parlava della sua morte, perché essa era il fine della sua venuta tra noi. In vista di Lui, come sua figura in occasione della Pasqua, avevano sanguinato gli agnelli portati al Tempio per il sacrificio; dalla sua venuta, dalla sua prima manifestazione al mondo, sanguinano i martiri per Lui».
All’Epifania, l’uomo-Dio si è manifestato al
mondo, ma c’è già il presagio della Croce. La Croce con il suo Sacrificio,
perpetuato sull’altare, nella Messa, è la sua più alta manifestazione al mondo.
Sacrificio, amore, offerta a livello supremo. Gesù, manifestati a noi, oggi, e
rendici partecipi del tuo Sacrificio.
Autore: Paolo Risso
«Ed ecco la stella, che avevano visto nel suo sorgere, li precedeva, finché giunse e si fermò sopra il luogo dove si trovava il bambino. Al vedere la stella, essi provarono una grandissima gioia. Entrati nella casa, videro il bambino con Maria sua madre, e prostratisi lo adorarono. Poi aprirono i loro scrigni e gli offrirono in dono oro, incenso e mirra» (Mt. 2, 9-11). Come i pastori erano stati chiamati dall’angelo a partecipare della Gloria di Dio e della pace degli uomini, così ora i Magi, esperti astronomi, venivano guidati dalla stella per partecipare anch’essi all’evento che ha mutato storia e destini. Leggiamo da sant’Agostino:
«Da pochissimi giorni abbiamo celebrato il Natale del Signore, in questi giorni celebriamo con non minore solennità la sua manifestazione, con la quale cominciò a farsi conoscere dai pagani… Era nato colui che è la pietra angolare, la pace fra provenienti dalla circoncisione e dalla incirconcisione, perché si unissero in lui che è la nostra pace e che ha fatto dei due un popolo solo. Tutto questo è stato prefigurato per i Giudei nei pastori, per i pagani nei Magi… I pastori giudei sono stati condotti a lui dall’annuncio di un angelo, i Magi pagani dall’apparizione di una stella» (Sermone 201,1; PL 38 1031).
L’Epifania, dunque, celebra l’universalità della Chiesa: Emmanuele, «Dio con noi», è giunto in terra per chiamare ognuno alla Verità e per indicare la strada per raggiungerla e salvarsi. I Re Magi, che appartenevano alla casta sacerdotale ereditaria della religione zoroastriana, hanno creduto nei segni celesti, «i cieli narrano la gloria di Dio» (Sal. 19, 2), li hanno saputi decifrare e con immensa gioia si sono genuflessi a Cristo Re.
Non hanno proposto alla Madonna e a san Giuseppe di educare il Bambino Divino nella loro religione, ma si sono sottomessi al Pargolo celeste; non hanno cercato un dialogo, un confronto, uno scambio di opinioni; non hanno neppure portato la loro esperienza o le loro interpretazioni, questi sapienti si sono umilmente prostrati alla Verità, all’Amore, alla Bellezza che avevano dinnanzi. L’Epifania perciò celebra non l’ecumenismo, bensì l’universalità della Chiesa, ovvero la chiamata dei gentili alla Fede. E il posto della stella è stato preso dal Vangelo, che invita ancora alla conversione di tutte le genti a Cristo, l’Unto di Dio.
Nel 614 la Palestina fu occupata dai Persiani guidati da Re Cosroe II e distrussero quasi tutte le chiese cristiane, risparmiando la Basilica della Natività di Betlemme perché sulla facciata vi era un mosaico raffigurante i Magi vestiti con l’abito tradizionale persiano.
Marco Polo afferma di aver visitato le tombe dei Magi nella città di Saba, a sud di Teheran, intorno al 1270: «In Persia è la città ch’è chiamata Saba, da la quale si partiro li tre re ch’andaro adorare Dio quando nacque. In quella città son soppeliti gli tre Magi in una bella sepoltura, e sonvi ancora tutti interi con barba e co’ capegli: l’uno ebbe nome Beltasar, l’altro Gaspar, lo terzo Melquior. Messer Marco dimandò più volte in quella cittade di quegli III re: niuno gliene seppe dire nulla, se non che erano III re soppelliti anticamente» (Il Milione, cap. 30).
Nel 1162 l’imperatore Federico Barbarossa fece distruggere la chiesa di Sant’Eustorgio a Milano, dove erano state portate le salme dei Magi (alle quali era giunta, secondo la Tradizione, sant’Elena) e se ne impossessò. Nel 1164 l’arcicancelliere imperiale Rainaldo di Dassel, arcivescovo di Colonia, le sottrasse e passando in Lombardia, Piemonte, Borgogna, Renania, le traslò nella cattedrale della città tedesca, dove ancora oggi sono conservate. Milano cercò ripetutamente di riavere le reliquie: il 3 gennaio del 1904, l’Arcivescovo Ferrari fece collocare in Sant’Eustorgio alcuni frammenti ossei in un’urna di bronzo con la scritta «Sepulcrum Trium Magorum». Per il 6 gennaio che cosa abbiamo preparato per il Nostro Salvatore? Imitiamo un poco i saggi Sacerdoti venuti dall’Oriente e con semplicità adoriamo Gesù Bambino con l’oro dei nostri sacrifici, l’incenso delle nostre preghiere, la mirra del nostro pentimento.
Autore: Cristina Siccardi