Christ is born! Glorify Him!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise Men from the East to Jerusalem, . . . [A]nd lo, the star which they saw in the East went before them until it came and stood over where the young Child was.
By now in these days of COVID, we are no doubt quite familiar (maybe even overly so) with the phrase “follow the science.” We have been advised, if not admonished on occasion, to “follow the science” in our attempts to rein in the pandemic. By asserting science, as though it were indisputable, infallible, inerrant, and self-evident to all, we are led to believe we can’t go wrong, and if we “follow the science” we will be saved from the catastrophic effects of the pandemic.
In a way, we might say that the Magi – those most familiar kings of “Orient are” – “followed the science” and it led them to Jesus Christ. It led them to fall down and worship this young Child in the arms of His nursing Mother. This, beloved, is a matter of divine revelation. These Magi were scientists of their day, astronomers by trade, if not by hobby, who followed the science to the “little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay” (“Away in the Manger”). They did what astronomers do and have always done: they watched the heavens above. Whether they worshipped the stars above as gods remains to be seen. But one thing they did know, something we who are addicted to science as the irrefutable salvation of humanity seem to forget, maybe even intentionally ignore to our own peril: the stars watched by astronomers, like all the rest of creation, serve the Master and they bear their Creator witness. All of creation, living and inanimate, praise God and serve Him (Ps. 103 ; 148; Sr. 43:1-26). Indeed, God has not left Himself without a witness (Ac. 14:17). For as David the psalmist par excellence sings,
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows the works of His hands. Day unto day utters speech and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard (Ps. 18 :1-3).
Unmask one of the mysteries of this vast universe and it leads you to yet another, maybe even more profound, mystery to be savored and contemplated. The Mystery, however, ultimately, is God. And the science that leads us to God, the science that reveals God, the science of divine revelation and theology, is the science of faith. There was a day and age when theology was held to be the queen of all sciences, that faith enlightened science and science was a handmaid to faith. It should not surprise us, then, that creation in the form of a star is employed here to make known to others the glory of God there in the city of Bethlehem, just as all creation bears witness on the day of its Creator’s crucifixion (Mt. 27:45, 51-53; Mk. 15:33; Lk. 23:44-45). “And, lo, the star came and stood over the place where the young Child was” (Prothesis). And the Wise Men fell before God in the arms of His Mother and they worshipped Him. The Star evangelized the Magi and it led them to its Creator and Master Whom they glorified.
Now, whether this star was an astronomical phenomenon such as the confluence of Jupiter and Saturn, as some suppose, or an angel, as St. John Chrysostom believed, the fact is, God was at work by both natural and supernatural means, if you will. Jesus in His earthly ministry was known to utilize common medicinal practices of His day like mud and spittle, and He did things beyond the pale of nature like raise the dead and restore to wholeness the severed ear of a slave and He had power over creation to still the raging waves of a storm-tossed sea. All who witnessed these things asked themselves, “Who can this be? What sorcery or trickery does this Man use?” But we know it was not sorcery, witchcraft, trickery, or anything vaguely like those things. He is God in the flesh. “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made,” says the Apostle of the science of faith. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe in His Name, . . . .” (Jn. 1:3, 10-12; Co. 1:16; Hb. 1:2; Nicene Creed).
I do not want to make Christians out of the Magi before they ever laid an eye on the King they sought, but it is clear that more than astronomy was driving them. It was the hand of God through His Spirit Who spoke to the souls of those men from the East using the heavens and its stars to inspire them to seek out the young Child. To whatever degree of faith measured to them by God, they sought the One Who is the true King of the Jews and not another, much to Herod’s disdain. The chief priests and scribes had the prophetic Word of God made more sure, and yet they did not see . . . could not see what the Magi saw. Why? Because they did not follow the science of faith as did these Wise Men. The Creator, the Lord, the Master, the Pantocrator had come and was in the world only five miles away from Herod’s palace in Jerusalem, but they did not receive Him as did the Magi who were given power to become the sons of God. Beloved, like the Magi and with them, let us this day of all days yield in faith to “the prophetic Word made more sure, . . . as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in [our] hearts” (2 Pe. 1:19), granting to us all His great mercy, His Light and His Life. For “in Him [is] Life,” beloved, “and that Life [is] the Light of men. And the Light shineth in the darkness, . . . .” (Jn. 1:4-5).
The science of faith, beloved, is animated by this Jesus Who is
Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; . . .; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man (Nicene Creed).
The science of faith believes and it acts on that belief. As we sing in the Nativity Tropar:
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars were taught by a Star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Orient from on high. . . . .
The Magi act on what they know and believe while those who sat in darkness awaiting their Messiah, awaiting their King, do nothing because they do not believe despite quoting the prophecy to Herod! Perhaps they followed the science, too, but it led them astray because it was not the science of faith, not divine revelation.
Allow me a couple of more musings, beloved, before we come to the end. It seems to me that the priest in his ministry is like that of the Magi. He, too, with them follows after the One Who is to come, the King of Israel, the Lord and Master of all, the God and Saviour of all who sit in darkness (Is. 9:1-2; Mt. 4:15-16), and he does so (or should anyway) with the same tenacity of faith. Having the prophetic Word made more sure in his heart, he seeks the Christ where He is to be found and he leads others to that same place, where the star is. He leads them to the House of God, to the Church, to the womb of the Virgin, to the Manger. With the Magi before us, we come to the House of the Lord, to Bethlehem (which is the “house of bread,” as it is translated). Here, we find the young Child with His Mother always present, always before us in icons. She is ever beckoning to us, re-orienting our gaze, to behold her beloved Son. And the priest, like the star, stands where the young Child is, here on the Altar, on the paten and in the chalice, and he points our faith, our hope, and our love to Jesus Christ, just like the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, “Whatever My Son says, do” (Jn. 2:5). “Take! Eat! This is My Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.” “Drink of it, all of you! This is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins!” (Divine Liturgy Verbum). In the fear of God, and with faith and love, we, too, draw near to Jesus, just as every wise man and wise woman has ever done.
“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His Mother, and fell down and worshipped Him.” Can we do any less? Follow the science, beloved. Follow the science.
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Nm. 24:2-3, 5-9, 17-18
Mc. 4:6-7; 5:2-4
Dn. 2:31-36, 44-45
Is. 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 8-10