Who are the Magi?
Who are these Ma-goi, or Magi? We’ve tried to translate the Greek into Astronomer, Astrologer, Kings, and Wise men. Astronomer – because they were men who studied the stars. Astrologers – because they tried to read the signs given by those stars. Kings – perhaps because the Old Testament prophecies, one of which we hear in the first reading from Isaiah, speak of Kings being led to God by a bright light, coming from the East, bearing gifts of gold and frankincense. And wise men – which perhaps best captures who they are from the eternal perspective.
Why wise men? Wisdom can be spoken of in many ways, and is something that all pursue, though perhaps not always looking in the right place. Wisdom, as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, is the highest in their order, and crowns the activity of the rest. Wisdom is a gift from God to see things from His perspective. In this sense, these Magi were truly wise. They knew that God was the author of all creation, and sought to study it as such. They knew that as creation is from God, all of it – the mountains and valleys, the oceans and plains, the stars and the earth – in various ways, pointed to Him, and in a true but limited way, revealed His nature and who He is, and how He desires to come to us. Succinctly put: God had written His order and His plan into the universe. And the Magi were responding to the deepest longing written into the human heart: the longing for God.
They also knew, by the pagan prophet, Balaam, who was forced to prophecy by God against his will, that at some point, a unique star would appear over Jerusalem, which would signify the rise of a Scepter, the birth of a King, who would eventually rule the world. And so, desiring to know God and communion with Him, which is a gift of faith, and seeking to see things from His perspective, they humbly sought the truths of creation, letting the evidence lead them. With their eyes fixed on the heavens, when this Star appeared, the Magi humbly sought out this newborn King, following the sign God gave them. In them, we see with great joy, that God’s plan and gift of salvation is extended and offered to the whole world.