The Magi and the Star of Bethlehem


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,



In Latin tradition dating from the 11th century, (from a Greek manuscript) their names are given as Gaspar (or Caspar/Jasper), Melchior and Balthasar. According to one tradition, the Magi were baptized by the holy Apostle Thomas and became bishops. The Church commemorates the Magi as Saints; the Orthodox feast day of the Magi is December 25.

There are numerous variations of the names of the Magi in Greek, but the most common variations are for the name Gaspar which in Greek is Γιάσπερος (Iasperos) which is Anglicized as Jasper.


It is customary for the rulers of cities to be called kings in Holy Scripture, as is evident from the 14th Chapter of Genesis. No one knows which cities the Wise Men ruled; we can, however, be certain that the Magi were three in number, like their gifts, and that they were guided by a single Star. Divine Providence caused them to meet one another, and after discussing the reason they were traveling, they continued their journey together, still following the celestial Light foretold by the renowned stargazer of ancient times, Balaam, who said, "A star shall rise out of Jacob, a man shall spring out of Israel" (Numbers, Ch. 24). And what sort of star was this? Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Theophylact affirm that it was not an ordinary star, like those we see every night, but "a divine and angelic star, that appeared in the form of a star [The Explanation of Saint Matthew]. Other stars had their origin at the creation of the universe, but this star was revealed only at the end of the ages when the Logos/Word became incarnate. Other stars are fixed in the heavens, but this one was visible lower in the skies. Other stars move from East to West, but his one from the east southward to Jerusalem. [Assuming the Magi would have entered Palestine from Syria]. Other stars are visible only at night, but this one shone like the sun during the day, far surpassing every other star in size and brilliance. Other stars (like the planets, sun, and moon) move constantly with the vault of heaven; but this one moved sometimes, and at other times stood still, as Saint Theophylact says: "It moved as the Magi moved, and stood still as they rested" (The Explanation of Saint Matthew).

When is it most likely that the Star appeared? Saint Theophylact and Saint John Chrysostom say, "The Star was revealed to the Magi before the Lord was born. Since their journey would take a long time, it became visible well before His birth, enabling them to worship Him while He was still in swaddling clothes" (The explanation of Saint Matthew). These holy men mention nothing about a period of two years but say only "a long time," signifying thereby several months. On the basis of what Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Theophylact teach, understand that it was on the very day and at the exact moment when the Archangel brought the glad tidings of the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Logos/Word became flesh in the immaculate womb of the Virgin -- nine months before the Nativity -- that the Star became visible in the East...

It was, then, nine months before the Nativity of Christ, on the day of the Annunciation, that the three Wise Men first saw the Star. They were amazed and wondered in the beginning if it was a meteor shining in the sky, or perhaps a comet warning of some catastrophe. In truth, the Star did presage the misfortunes that would befall the soul-destroying enemy; the collapse of the idols, the expulsion of demons, and the shedding abroad of the light of holy faith. Soon the Magi became convinced that its appearance was not accidental, but that it radiated divine power, and they recalled Balaam's ancient prophecy.

Saint Theophylact explains: "Why did the Magi come? For the condemnation of the Jews. If the idolatrous Magi believed, what defense could the Jews give? The Wise Men came from a great distance to worship Him, while the Jews, who had Christ in their midst, persecuted Him" (The explanation of St. Matthew).

Entering the capital city of Jerusalem, the Magi asked, "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" (St. Matthew, chapter 2). Their question amazed the people, and troubled Herod and his court. Summoning the High Priests and elders, the ruler inquired where Christ would be born, for he was afraid he would lose his kingdom and intended to murder the newborn Lord. No sooner had he learned that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea that he ordered the Magi brought to him and "inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared." Meditating evil in his heart, his lips mouthing deceit, he told them, "Go and search for the young Child, and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also."

After the Magi left Jerusalem, the Star reappeared, leading them to the Cave in Bethlehem and filling them with joy. There it stopped and descended near the earth, "over where the young Child was." If it had not come down, it would have been impossible to tell just where the newborn King lay. Again Saint Theophylact, basing himself on Saint John Chrysostom's interpretation, explains: "Lo, this too was an extraordinary sign: The Star descending from on heights and coming closer to the earth, showing them the place. For if it had remained on high, how would they have found the exact spot where Christ was? Every heavenly body is visible over a wide area. You may see the moon over your house, but it appears to me that it is above my house alone. To each one, the moon, or a star, seems to stand above him and no one else. The Star could not have pointed out where Christ was, had it not descended and stood directly over Him". And so this miracle also demonstrates that the Celestial Light that guided the Magi was no ordinary star, but a manifestation of divine energy...

Seeing the Lord in the cave, the Wise Men saluted as King and worshipped Him as God. Both Saint Irenaeus and Pope Leo attest that the Magi were mystically illumined by the Lord's grace when they saw the Child, understood that He was Divine, and believed in Him. They prostrated themselves before their King and God, offering Him the adoration due to the Divinity. Wherefore, it is written: "They fell down and worshipped Him, and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts", fulfilling the Commandment: "None shall appear before Me empty" (Exodus, Chapter 23). And what were their gifts? Gold, frankincense and myrrh. They brought gold as befitting a king, frankincense for Him that is God, and myrrh to One Who would taste death, for the Jews used myrrh, which masks the foul odor, in preparing corpses for burial (Saint Theophylact). Thus did the Three Kings honor one of the Trinity with gifts, indicating thereby that He is one in two natures, as Saint Leo says: "They brought frankincense to God, myrrh to Him Who is a man and would undergo death, and gold to the King, rightly honoring the Divine and Human natures in a single hypostasis. Offering gifts, they showed their devotion to Him in Whom they believed with their hearts."

"Being warned in a dream by an Angel "that they should not return to Herod," who were plotting to murder the newborn King, as the Magi "departed into their own country another way" (St. Matthew, Chapter 2). There, according to the trustworthy testimony of Nicephorus, they preached that Christ was the Son of God come into the world, and taught the people to believe in Him, as they themselves did (The conclusion of Bk. 1, Ch. 12 of Nicephorus). It is certain that after they died, the Wise Men were numbered in the choir of the Saints.

One of the Magi was called Melchior and was old and gray. He had long hair, a long beard, and brought gold to the King and Master. Another was named Caspar. He was young, beardless, and had a ruddy complexion. His gift to God Incarnate was frankincense. The third, Balthasar, was bearded very dark and presented myrrh to the Son of Man, Who would undergo death. Many years after the Wise Men departed this life, their holy relics were translated to Constantinople. Later, the holy relics were removed to Milan, then to Cologne, unto the glory of Christ God in the flesh. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Divine Birth,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George