"Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2)
Certainly one of the most joyful spiritual events of all the ages was the Nativity of Christ. Even the Holy Resurrection needed to be preceded by the Nativity of Christ. Today is the day of reconciliation. God is on earth and man is in heaven.
Today is the day of "Good Tidings". Tidings like those that from the very beginning were never heard. The curse of ancient times that we brought upon ourselves is being overturned.
The question of the magi "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" is one that many should be asking themselves.
The magi, those men from the East, are mentioned only in the first twelve verses of the second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew the Evangelist. However, their story is known to all.
The lesson of the magi is totally pertinent to us today. These men left their barbaric people who worshipped idols following a star- a small body of light- in order to reach the great Body of Light- the Sun of Righteousness.
The magi stop by Jerusalem seeking the newborn King. King Herod was disturbed to learn of the birth of another king. How could it be otherwise? Could something so earthly as being a puppet-king of the Romans be anything in comparison to the heavenly King?
"He (Herod) sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:8)
Herod represents all those who insincerely are looking for God who was born in the flesh for us. Herod will never go to worship Him as he tells the magi who will actually worship Him. So many speak today about worshipping the Incarnate Word but, in actuality, they never do.
The magi are true God-seekers. What do they find in Bethlehem? They find poverty, a Child born in a cave and laid in a manger among barn animals. These God-enlightened magi though are not offended by what they see. They are not offended by seeing God worshipped and glorified in humble surroundings, in caves, or catacombs. Most of today's supposedly "Christian" world cannot understand that Christ is to be found in the humblest of settings. He is to be found only there where the Truth prevails. He is truly worshipped only by those who have come forth from and left behind the barbaric land and have journeyed far with many difficulties. The world will always look upon us as those in sheds, barns, and mangers. They refuse though to understand that if they haven't followed the star that shown in the East then they will not find the One born in the flesh for our salvation. They will remain as another King Herod who when "he heard this was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:3).
The magi are made worthy of a priestly dignity by offering gifts in Bethlehem which means the "house of bread" that is the house of the Spiritual Bread. Reading the Gospel account, one can feel the sense of calm that the magi receive upon their adoration. They experience trembling and spiritual joy.
The magi are informed through a dream to return by a different route. How many Herods in our day endanger us on our Christ-seeking journey? We True Orthodox Christians though find "another way" the route laid out by our forefathers in the Faith lest we aid an evil king. This "different route" is remaining in obedience to Orthodoxy even in the most difficult of situations. Were the magi defeated by returning by another route? Not at all! They were blessed by their obedience to the commandment of God.
So let us go forth and "make speed to spoil and hasten to the prey" (Isaiah 8:1) and reap the blessings of this day of reconciliation. St. John Chrysostom answers the question many have, "How then are we to be freed from this pest? If we can drink a potion that is able to kill the worms within us and the serpents. And of what nature, it will be asked, may this potion be, that hath such power? The precious Blood of Christ, if it be received with full assurance, for this will have power to extinguish every disease." (Homily 4 on the Gospel of Matthew).
Remembering all of you in the spiritual Bethlehem,
+ Philaretos, Bishop of Pallini and Western Europe