Archive for the ‘Magi’ Tag

A Light to the Nations IX   2 comments

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Feast of the Epiphany, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, who by the leading of a star revealed thy newborn Son to those far off:

mercifully grant that we who know thee by faith, may in this life glorify thee,

and in the life to come behold thee face to face,

through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Matthew 2:1-12

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I am an unapologetic pedant.  I wince whenever I hear or read people use “viable” in lieu of “feasible.”  I know that signs above express lanes in grocery stores should read

10 Items or Fewer,

instead of the ubiquitous

10 Items or Less.

The misuse of “impact” in lieu of verbs such as “influence” and “affect,” minus the traditional physicality (either a collision or becoming wedged in somewhere) is an assault on proper English.  Likewise, the use of “impacted” for “affected,” as well as “impactful,” are inexcusable.  Any use of “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” other than as plural words bothers me, for I respect the distinction between the plural and the singular.  And I know that Magi and shepherds never belong together in manger scenes.  If we reconcile the accounts from Matthew 2 and Luke 2 (a dubious proposition, according to many New Testament scholars), we must place about two years (Matthew 2:16) between them.

The Feast of the Epiphany is, on one level, about the Gospel of Jesus Christ going out to the goyim.  On another level, it is about the goyim coming (in the case of the magi, traveling) to Christ.  The reading from Isaiah 60, with the full reversal of exile and the goyim going to Jerusalem, fits into this theme well.  The Gospel of Christ is unveiled, plain to see, and like a light shining in the darkness, which has yet to understand and overpower it (John 1:5).

I stand within a theological tradition that affirms Single Predestination.  God predestines some people to Heaven and uses the witness of the Holy Spirit to invite the others.  The damned are those who condemn or have condemned themselves; God sends nobody to Hell, but everyone.  This theology is consistent with the Epiphany.  The Jews are the Chosen People, yes, but we Gentiles are like limbs grafted onto the tree of Judaism.

Will we, like the magi, obey God?  Or will we, like Herod the Great, pursue our own agendas instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Light to the Nations V   Leave a comment

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Albrecht Durer

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-40191

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We ask, Lord, that you mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you,

and that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do,

and may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 60:1-3, 6b

Psalm 24

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 60 and Psalm 24 state that God is the King, a ruler superior to human rulers who shed the blood of the innocent, commit injustice shamelessly, and do not care about integrity.  God is not fully the King of the Earth yet, we read, but that will change.  God is certainly superior to the unstable and evil Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire and a man fearful of a young boy.

Interestingly, Father Raymond E. Brown, author of The Birth of the Messiah (1977 and 1993) and An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), both magisterial works of Biblical scholarship, was dubious of the story in Matthew 2 (considering the account in Luke 2, despite its factual errors, more plausible) yet affirmed the Virgin Birth.  For a long time many scholars–even conservative ones–have struggled to reconcile the very different stories in Matthew 2 and Luke 2.  Nevertheless, would not visiting Magi have been more likely than a virginal conception and subsequent birth?

Regardless of the objective reality regarding that matter, the kingship of God remains.  Most of God’s subjects are Gentiles, whom He does not exclude from the potential for salvation.  This is an old theme in the Bible, given the faithful Gentiles who appear in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.  The narrative makes room for the civilly disobedient midwives Shiphrah and Puah (probably ethnically Egyptian) in Exodus 1, for Rahab the prostitute of Jericho and her family in Joshua 2 and 6, and Ruth in Ruth 1-4, for example.  The four chapters of Jonah, a work of fiction and a Jewish protest against post-Babylonian Exilic exclusionary attitudes among Jews, remain relevant in many settings.  We read of some Gentile Godfearers in John 12:20-36.  Faithful Gentiles, we read in epistles of St. Paul the Apostle as well as those texts others wrote in his name, join the Jews in the ranks of the Chosen People.  Are not the Chosen People–Jews and Gentiles–supposed to be a light to the nations, that is, Gentiles?

The message of God is for all people.  Not all will accept it, however; that is their decision.  The offer is on the table one way or another, however.  It is a generous offer and a gift.  The grace is free yet not cheap, for it makes demands of all its recipients.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God’s Big Circles   1 comment

18662v

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008678931/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 60:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is

many-sided.

That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Meaning of the Epiphany   1 comment

Above:  Seventh-Century Mosaic of the Magi from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy

Image Source = Nina-No

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Magi_(1).jpg)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 60:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Arise, shine; for your light has come,

and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

For darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the LORD will arise upon you,

and his glory will appear over you.

Lift up your eyes and look around;

they all gather together, they come to you;

your sons shall come from far away,

and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and rejoice,

because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,

the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

A multitude of camels shall cover you,

the young camels of Midian and Ephah;

all those from Sheba shall come.

They shall bring gold and frankincense,

and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Psalm 72:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give the king your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness;

and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,

and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,

give deliverance to the needy,

and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,

and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish

and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

May his foes bow down before him,

and his enemies lick the dust.

May the kings of Tarshish and the isles render him tribute,

may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

May all kings fall down before him,

all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call,

the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the week and the needy,

and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life;

and precious is their blood in his sight.

Ephesians 3:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Matthew 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him,

In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,

Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Contrary to certain traditions, the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) is the appropriate time to discuss the Magi, or the Wise Men from the Matthew gospel.  As that date approaches I ponder them.

Put nativity scenes out of your mind, for they are inaccurate.  The shepherds come from the Lukan narrative.  The Magi appear only in Matthew’s account, set in Bethlehem at a different time.  Matthew 2:11 (Jerusalem Bible) reads:  “…and going into the house they saw the child and his mother Mary, and falling on their knees they did him homage.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  The key word is “house.”  The Magi entered a house, not a cave or a stall.

Time had passed since the birth of Jesus.

Another marker of time comes later in the Matthew telling.  After the Magi did not revisit him in his palace, Herod the Great ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, or the murder of all male children two years old or younger in and around  Bethlehem.  Herod, a Roman client king, owed his position to the Emperor of Rome.  (The Romans ruled parts of their empire directly and other regions of it via local officials.  The British followed the same mixed strategy much later.  Think about how the governed India, for example.)  Herod the Great was a mean, violent, and troubled man who ordered the deaths of family members and strangers alike, so the story has historical feasibility.  And the order to kill boys two years old or younger implies that Jesus was about two years old at the time.

So, who where these Magi?  And what did the see in the night sky?

The Magi (the Bible does not indicate how many traveled to find Jesus, only that that there were at least two of them, as “magi” is plural) were most likely member of an elite class of Zoroastrian priests from the Parthian Empire.  They were astrologers and academics who tutored the ruling classes of the empire.   (Carols and discredited traditions say they were kings, but let us file those under “artistic license.”)  Acceptance of astrology was widespread in those days.  Today we rationalistic, post-Enlightenment types label astrology a pseudo-science and rank it with palm reading and phrenology, as we should.  Yet that is beside the point.

The Magi spent much time observing the night skies closely.  Thus they noticed when something changed.  Also, they associated the planet Jupiter with royalty.  The most likely candidate for the Star of Bethlehem is the conjunction of Jupiter with another planet, the identity of which is the subject of much discussion and debate.  This astronomical event meant enough to the some of these priests that they planned a prolonged journey, probably a two-years long round trip.    They sought a king, and they found one.

So this is what troubled Herod the Great, whose claim to his throne was shaky.

The gifts are significant, too.  Gold, a precious metal, befits a king.  Frankincense  has religious meaning, as in one ‘s prayers rising to God like incense.  And Myrrh is a bitter perfume.  Messiah 101:  The Messiah must die.  “Take up your cross and follow me.”  People, many of whom might be close to you, will reject you because you follow Jesus.  You might even become a martyr.  The pathway of faith can be full of grief and difficulty.

The Encarta World English Dictionary defines “epiphany” as follows:

1.  the manifestation of a divine being

2.  a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurence.

The Incarnation of God in human form fulfills the first definition.  Yet what about the second meaning?  What did the Magi understand?  I do not know the answer to that question.  Yet their visit indicates the manifestation of God incarnate to Gentiles.

God is incarnating around us today.  Do we recognize this?  Which epiphanies will we experience today and subsequent days?  And how will these epiphanies transform us?

Pax vobiscum.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2010 COMMON ERA 

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 4, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 3, Isaiah 60, Matthew 2, Psalm 72

Tagged with , , ,

Epiphanies   1 comment

Above:  Magi

What do we see?

A young child?

A king?

God incarnate?

The Messiah?

The Savior?

A martyr?

A sage?

A revolutionary?

A threat?

A promise?

How do we understand what we see?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCOIS FENELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF JULIUS WELLHAUSEN, BIBLE SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/epiphanies/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted November 29, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 2

Tagged with ,

The Journey   1 comment

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image Source = Nina-No

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Magi_(1).jpg)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Traveling far and for many months

To a foreign land

To seek a king

Whose sign is in the sky

++++++++++

Traveling across the desert

Leaving the comforts of home behind

To embark on a sacred quest

And a storied journey

++++++++++

Traveling abroad

At great physical risk

To visit a young king

And present him gifts

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2009 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY 

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH CONDER, ABOLITIONIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AUSTIN FARRER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/the-journey/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted November 29, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 2

Tagged with ,