Wednesday, January 06, 2010

True Wise Men: Open to the Mystery of Christ

Address of Pope Benedict XVI
Recitation of the Angelus

Epiphany, January 6, 2010

Dear brothers and sisters:

Today, we celebrate the great feast of the Epiphany, the mystery of the Lord's manifestation to all peoples, represented by the Magi, who had come from the East to adore the King of the Jews.

The evangelist Matthew, who recounts the event (2:1-12), underscores how they arrived in Jerusalem following a star, which they had seen when it first emerged, and interpreted as the sign of the birth of the King announced by the prophets, that is, the Messiah. Arriving in Jerusalem, however, the Magi needed directions from the priests and scribes to know exactly where to go, that is, Bethlehem, the city of David's birth (cf. Mt 2:5-6; Mic 5:1). The star and the Sacred Scriptures were the two lights that guided the journey of the Magi, who appear as models of authentic searchers for truth.

They were wise men, who scrutinized the stars and knew the history of peoples. They were men of science in the broad sense, who observed the cosmos and considered it almost as a great book full of signs and divine messages for man. That is why, far from considering their their knowledge to be self-sufficient, they were open to further revelations and divine calls. Indeed, they were not ashamed to ask for instructions from the religious chiefs of the Jews.

They could have said: Let us do it by ourselves, we do not need anyone - thus avoiding, according to our mentality today, any "cross-contamination" between science and the Word of God. Instead, the Magi listened to the prophecies and accepted them.

As soon as they resumed their way towards Bethlehem, they saw the star again, almost in confirmation of the perfect harmony between human searching and divine truth - a harmony that filled their hearts of authentic wise men with joy (cf. Mt 2:10).

The climax of their quest was when they found themselves in front of "the Baby with Mary his mother" (Mt 2:11). The Gospel says they "prostrated themselves and did Him homage."

They could well have been disappointed, even scandalized. Instead, as true wise men, they were open to the mystery that manifests itself in a surprising way. And with their symbolic gifts, they demonstrated that they recognized, in Jesus, the King and the Son of God. That very act fulfilled the messianic oracles that announced the homage of nations to the God of Israel.

A last detail confirms the unity of intelligence and faith in the Magi: the fact that "having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way" (Mt 2:12).

It would have been natural for them to go back to Jerusalem, to Herod's palace and to the Temple, to give resonance to what they had found. Instead, the Magi, who had chosen the Baby as their sovereign, kept Him hidden in the style of Mary, or better yet, of God Himself, and just as they had appeared, they disappeared in silence, fulfilled, but also changed by their encounter with the Truth. They had discovered a new face of God, a new royalty: that of love.

May the Virgin Mary, model of true wisdom, help us to be authentic searchers for the truth of God, capable of always living the profound harmony between reason and faith, science and revelation.

After the Angelus prayers, the Holy Father said:

I am happy to address my most cordial wishes to our brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches who will celebrate the Holy Nativity tomorrow. May the mystery of light be a source of joy and peace for every family and community.

On the solemnity of the Epiphany, we also observe the Missionary Day for Children, with the motto, "Children helping children." Promoted by the Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1950, this initiative educates children to have a mind open to the world and to feel brotherly solidarity with less fortunate children of their age.

I affectionately greet all the little missionaries present in the five continents and encourage them to always be witnesses for Jesus and announcers of His Gospel.

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