The Three Kings Of The Orient Come To Adore The Word Made Man In Bethlehem¹
552. The three Magi Kings, who came to find the Divine Infant after His birth, were natives of Persia, Arabia and Sabba (Psalm 71, 10: reges Tharsis et insulae munera offerent reges Arabiae et Saba tributum conferent – – The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts), countries to the east of Palestine.
Their coming was prophesied especially by David, and before him, by Balaam, who, having been hired by Balaac, king of the Moabites, to curse the Israelites, blessed them instead (Numbers 24, 17: videbo eum sed non modo intuebor illum sed non prope orietur stella ex Iacob et consurget virga de Israhel et percutiet duces Moab vastabitque omnes folios Seth – – I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth).
In this blessing Balaam said, that he would see the King Christ, although not at once, and that he would behold Him, although not present; for he did no see Him with his own eyes, but through the Magi, his descendants many centuries after.
He said, also, that a star would arise unto Jacob, which was Christ, Who arose to reign forever in the house of Jacob (Luke 1, 32).
553. These three Kings were well versed in the natural sciences, and well read in the Scriptures of the people of God; and on account of their learning they were called Magi.
By their knowledge of Scripture, and by conferring with some of the Jews, they were imbued with a belief in the coming of the Messias expected by that people.
They were, moreover, upright men, truthful and very just in the government of their countries.
Since their dominions were not so extended as those of our times, they governed them easily, and personally administered justice as wise and prudent sovereigns. This is the true office of kings, and therefore the Holy Spirit says, that He holds their hearts in His hands in order to dirt them like irrigated waters to the fulfillment of His holy will (Proverbs 21, 1: sicut divisiones aquarum ita cor regis in manu Domini quocumque voluerit inclinabit illud – – As the divisions of waters, so the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever he will, he shall turn it).
They were also of noble and magnanimous disposition, free from avarice and covetousness, which so oppresses, degrades and belittles the spirits of princes.
Because these Magi governed adjoining countries and lived not far from each other, they were mutual friends and shared with each other the virtues and the knowledge which they had acquired, consulting each other in the more important events of their reigns.
In all things, they communicated with each other as most faithful friends.
554. … in the same night in which the in which the incarnate Word was born, they were informed of His Birth by the ministry of the holy angels.
It happened in the following manner: one of the guardian angels of our Queen, of a higher order than that of the guardian angels of the three kings, was sent from the cave of the Nativity. By his superior faculties he enlightened the three guardian angels of the Kings informing them at the same time of the will and command of the Lord, that each of them should manifest to his charge the mystery of the Incarnation and the birth of Christ our Redeemer.
Immediately and in the same hour each of the three angels spoke in dreams to the wise man under his care. This is the usual course of angelic revelations when the Lord communicates with souls through the angels.
This enlightenment of the Kings concerning the mysteries of the Incarnation was very copious and clear.
They were informed that the King of the Jews was born as true God and man; that He was the Messias and Savior Who was expected; that it was the One Who was promised in the Scriptures and prophecies (Genesis 3, 10); and that they themselves, the three Kings, were singled out by the Lord to seek the star, which Balaam had foretold. Each ones to the three Kings also was made aware that the same revelation was being made to the other two in the same way; and that it was not a favor or miracle which should remain unused, but that they were expected to co-operate with the divine light and execute what it pointed out.
They were inspired and inflamed with a great love and with a desire to know the God made man, to adore Him as their Creator and Redeemer, and serve Him with most perfect devotion.
In all this they were greatly assisted by their distinguished moral virtues, which they had acquired; for on account of them they were excellently disposed for the operation of the divine enlightenment.
555. After receiving these heavenly revelations in their sleep, the three Kings awoke at the same hour of the night, and prostrating themselves on the ground and humiliating themselves to the dust, they adored in spirit the immutable being of God. They exalted His infinite mercy and goodness for having sent the divine Word to assume flesh of a Virgin (Is. 7, 14) in order to redeem the world and give eternal salvation to men.
Then all three of them, governed by an impulse of the same Spirit, resolved to depart without delay for Judea in search of the divine Child in order to adore Him. The three Kings prepared gifts of gold, incense and myrrh in equal quantities, being guided by the same mysterious impulse; and without having conferred with each other concerning their undertaking, the three of them arrived at the same resolve and the same plan of executing it. In order to set out immediately, they procured on the same day the necessary camels and provisions together with a number of servants for the journey. Without heeding the commotion caused among their people, or considering that they were to travel in foreign regions, or caring for any outward show of authority, without ascertaining particulars of the place whither they were to go, or gathering information for identifying the Child, they at once resolved with fervent zeal and ardent love to depart in order to seek the newborn King.
556. At the same time the holy angel, who had brought the news from Bethlehem to the kings, formed of the material air a most resplendent star, although not so large as those of the firmament; for it was not to ascend higher than was necessary for the purpose of its formation. It took its course through the atmospheric regions in order to guide and direct the holy Kings to the cave, where the Child awaited them.
Its splendor was of a different kind from that of the sun and the other stars; with its most beautiful light it illumined the night like a brilliant torch, and it mingled its own most active brilliancy with that of the sun by day. On coming out of their palaces each one of the kings saw this new star (Matthew 2,2) although each from a different standpoint, because it was only one star and it was placed in such distance and height that it could be seen by each one at the same time.
As the three of them followed the guidance of this miraculous star, they soon met. Thereupon it immediately approached them much more closely, descending through many shifts of the aerial space and rejoicing them by shedding its refulgence over them at closer range. They began to confer among themselves about the revelation they had received and about their plans, finding that they were identical. They were more and more inflamed with devotion and with the pious desire of adoring the newborn God, and broke out in praise and admiration at the inscrutable works and mysteries of the Almighty.
557. The Magi pursued their journey under the guidance of the star without losing sight of it until they arrived at Jerusalem. As well on this account as also because this city was the capital and metropolis of the Jews, they suspected that this was the birthplace of their legitimate and true King.
They entered into the city and openly inquired after Him saying (Matthew 2,8): Where is the king of the Jews, who is born? For we have seen His star in the East, announcing to us His Birth and we have come to see Him and adore Him. Their inquiry came to the ears of Herod, who at that time unjustly reigned in Judea and lived in Jerusalem. The wicked king, panicle-stricken at the thought that a more legitimate claimant to the throne should have been born, felt much disturbed and outraged by this report. With him the whole city was aroused, some of the people, out of flattery to the king, others on account of the fear of disturbance. Immediately, as saint Matthew relates, Herod called together a meeting of the principal priests and scribes in order to ask them where Christ was to be born according to the prophecies and holy Scriptures. They answered that, according to the words of one of the Prophets, Michaes (Mich. 5,2), He was to be born in Bethlehem; since it was written by him that thence the Ruler of Israel was to arise.
558. Thus informed of the birthplace of the new King of Israel, and insidiously plotting from that very moment to destroy Him, Herod dismissed the priests.
Then he secretly called the Magi in order to learn of them at what time they had seen the star as harbinger of His Birth (Matthew 2,7). They ingenuously (innocently, openly, honestly, candidly) informed him, and he sent them away to Bethlehem, saying to them in covert malice: ‘Go and inquire after the Infant, and when you have found Him, announce it to me, in order that I, too, may to to recognize and adore Him.’
The Magi departed, leaving the hypocritical king ill at ease and in great consternation at such indisputable signs of the coming of the legitimate King of Israel into the world. Although he could have eased his mind in regard to his sovereignty by the thought that a recently born infant could not be enthroned so very soon, yet human prosperity is so unstable and deceitful that it can be overthrown even by an infant, or by the mere threat of far off danger. Thus can even an imagined uncertainty destroy all the enjoyment and happiness so deceitfully offered to its possessors.
559. On leaving Jerusalem the Magi again found the star, which at their entrance they had lost from view.
By its light they were conducted to Bethlehem and to the cave of the Nativity. Diminishing in size it hovered over the head of the infant Jesus and bathed Him in its light; whereupon the matter of which it had been composed dissolved and disappeared.
Our great Queen had already been prepared by the Lord for the coming of the Kings, and when She understood that they were approaching the cave, She requested Saint Joseph not to leave it, but to stay at her side.
This he did, although the sacred text does not mention it.
Like many other things passed over in the Gospels, this was not necessary for establishing the truth of the mystery. Nevertheless it is certain that Saint Joseph was present when the Kings adored the infant Jesus. The precaution of sending him away was not necessary; for the Magi had already been instructed that the Mother of the Newborn was a Virgin, and that He was the true God and not a son of Saint Joseph. Nor would God have permitted them to be led to the cave ignorant of such an important circumstance as His origin, allowing them to adore the Child as the son of Joseph and of a Mother not a Virgin. They were fully instructed as to all these things, and they were deeply impressed by the sacramental character of all these exalted and complicated mysteries.
¹ From Venerable Mother Mary of (Jesus) Agreda’s transcription of the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the new enlightenment of the world, for the rejoincing of the Catholic Church and for the encouragement of men published under the title: “Mystical City Of God”. Imprimaturs † Edwin V. Byrne, D.D., Archbishop of Santa Fe; 9 February 1949 A.D. & † H. J. Alderding, Bishop of Fort Wayne; 24 August 1912 A.D.