Catholic News Service
The visit of the Magi to the newborn Jesus is commemorated as the feast of the Epiphany. This places the emphasis on what was revealed to them at this, the culmination of their long journey “from the east” (Mt 2:1).
The Magi remain mysterious figures. There are many theories as to just who these pilgrims were. There is a consensus that they travelled a great distance from the east, compelled as they were to come and do homage to the “newborn king of the Jews” (Mt 2:2).
The journey itself is so much more than a trivial fact that precedes their appearance. It puts them in continuity with other pilgrims throughout salvation history who have traveled, sometimes great distances, to reach their holy destinations.
While it may be difficult to discern just who these mysterious Magi were, light can be shed on their place in history by looking at other biblical journeys and pilgrimages.
One of the most significant biblical journeys is surely the exodus of the Israelites after being freed from slavery to Pharaoh. This was a journey with a known destination: the Promised Land, which God “swore to (their) ancestors to give (them), a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 13:5). The people knew that Moses was to lead them through the desert to the land that God had provided for them.
For many, the journey must have seemed interminable, wandering for 40 years as they did. But when the destination was reached, they saw just what a blessing the Lord had bestowed upon them.
Another journey of note is that of the Holy Family and their flight into Egypt immediately following the birth of Jesus. The magnificent blessing at the end of this journey was the safety of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Fleeing the sword of Herod and his men, they journeyed to safety, only returning when the threat had passed, “until the death of Herod” (Mt 2:15).
Important journeys need not cover long distances. One of the most important journeys of all time was the journey of Jesus to the hill at Calvary. “And carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha” (Jn 19:17).
He carried the cross, upon which, at the top of the hill, hung the salvation of the world. When considering the endpoint of journeys and pilgrimages, surely there is none so great as this. The Magi met the Savior at the culmination of their journey, and that Savior would undertake his on journey years later.
There have been many journeys throughout Scripture, and all through salvation history. The story of salvation may be described as the journey of God trying to reach man, and at the same time the journey of man trying to reach God.
In the pilgrimage of the Magi to pay homage to the newborn Jesus lies the ultimate expression of these journeys: God come down to earth, and man journeying great distances to see God face to face.
(Senz is a freelance writer living in Oregon with his family.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
An inner restlessness guided the Magi on their way to meet Christ, Pope Francis said on the feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6, 2017. “They could see what the heavens were showing them,” he said, and “they were open to something new.”
The Magi personify all believers, the pope said, everyone who longs for God.
“Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them. They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to the places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord,” Pope Francis said.
Like the Magi, we, too, want to worship, the pope said. King Herod was incapable of worshiping the Christ Child because “he did not want to stop worshiping himself” and “would not change his own way of looking at things.”
The Magi followed their longing and had the courage to set out, and so were able to worship, the pope said.