January 6, 2022
Last Sunday we saw Jesus, Who remains in Jerusalem in the Temple, seeking the source of that relationship that gives Him life, that prior relationship from which He knows he has been begotten. Today we see another search, that of the Magi, who set out from the East and come to Jerusalem, guided by a star (Mt 2:1-12).
The Magi, above all, seek the meaning of what they see, look for what lies behind things, what is the cause of what attracts them.
They saw a natural phenomenon, in the sky, something new, different from the usual, something that has intrigued them; a sign that spoke to them of something great and beautiful that happened, and this set them on their way. They ask themselves: where does this star want to take us? What does it mean?
It is, after all, the same question of Mary in the presence of the angel, when “she wondered what this greeting meant” (Lk 1:29): Mary asks what’s the meaning, what horizon does this event open up, where will this door lead that opens up before her?
There is, in the heart of man, this desire for beauty, for life, for something that breaks the cloak of monotony, that lifts the veil which covers the face, that restores us to our dignity and vocation. Something that sets off and supports in the struggle of the way, that helps in seeking and finding the goal that takes us beyond ourselves.
Having seen a sign, the Magi set out: but the sign was in the sky, and it was for everyone, while only they set off on the way. What makes the difference and what allows one to start a journey is the ability to see it, to welcome it. It is possessing a view capable of understanding the reality like a sign that refers to something else. One owns this view only if one has a desire in the heart; fundamentally, just if one loves.
It doesn’t matter how far away one is: one can even be near, or very near, and never get to see where the sign that appeared to you takes you.
Like Herod, for whom the reality is mute and insignificant, if not threatening: he, himself, will make sure to silence it, because no one can hear nor see any other king, except Herod, himself. When one is unable to lose something, one does not set out but remains entrenched in defending one’s privileges, one’s small powers.
That does not mean that signs which God places on our way may not be a source of disturbance: Matthew says that all Jerusalem was disturbed (Mt 2:3), and the evangelist says the same about Mary, throughout the Annunciation.
What makes the difference between these two disturbances? The difference is in listening to the Word; it is in allowing the Word to penetrate even in one’s anxiety: Mary listens to a word that tells her not to be afraid, and she opens herself to the gift. Not Herod: even he seeks the Word, but not to listen, not to allow himself to be enlightened, but instead to pursue his projects of power, which later lead to death. He does not seek the meaning of what he hears; he does not look for the One who is behind the event.
The Magi, instead, illumined by the star and the Word, finally find. They find the One before whom they prostrate themselves, the One who is worthy to be adored (Mt 2:11).
And since we prostrate just before God and adore Him alone, the Magi sense that God is all meaning in that Child, that the Child is the sign, the presence of God in history. They understand that He is behind everything.
Epiphany is the feast of signs, those by which God manifests Himself in history. And the sign, par excellence, is Jesus Himself. It is He alone Who can draw us from our remoteness, to set us out on the way, to disturb us, to save us.
It is a sign before which we prostrate ourselves, or make a gesture of reverence and love, a gesture of profound recognition, a gesture proper to those who have found the origin, the meaning of life.
For this reason, the journey of the Magi is the way of every person, or perhaps it is the way that leads us to become truly human.