Fr. Paul Ward
Sat., & Sun., Jan. 6 & 7, 2018
The Star, an Angelic Guide
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the
Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, when mages from
the East came to honor our Lord. Monday, we will
celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, and then right away
begin ordinary time. Normally the Lord’s Baptism is
observed on the first Sunday of Ordinary Time, but given
the way the calendar falls, the feast is on Monday. I
always relish ordinary time; for routine attracts me.
Not the routine of doing things mechanically and without
a heart; I mean a routine schedule, for I find it most
healthy for soul and body, most efficient for the use of
one’s time and generally the most productive.
The Epiphany provides many points of meditation,
points we have touched in the past or will in the
future: Christ the Light, Christ who is Revealed,
Revelation itself, Christianity before the non-Christian
world (an important point for our times), the symbolism
of the three gifts and the abominable plot of the tyrant
Herod, just to mention a few. But today I wish to focus
on the star. The star led the pagan Magi from the East
right to the new born Son of God. We don’t know how many
Magi there were, there may have been three as three
gifts were given, but the scriptures do not state
exactly how many.
In our modern times, scientists like to attempt to
research things in such a way that all the miracles of
the scriptures can be explained away by natural
phenomena. For example, the flood killing the Egyptians
in the Red Sea was simply a seasonal tide, so they say;
and what problems the six days of creation causes such
people. And so many will say this was an ordinary star
or meteorite in the sky, and the Magi simply interpreted
the star in such a religious way. Of course, this type
of mindset, which we may call the empirical mindset,
totally misses the point, and then promotes the
modernist heresy of reducing religion to pure
subjectivism and religious feeling.
I, and not only I (cf. Chrysostom in Aquinas,
Catena, at 2:2, p. 67), say that this was not an
ordinary star, but something miraculous, and perhaps and
angel. And from the following meditation, we can learn
more about how to let our own guardian angel be a
guiding star leading us to Jesus Christ the Lord.
The star is mentioned four times in this passage. 1.)
The Kings or Magi say they saw it “in the east” (v. 2).
This could mean that they were in the east when they saw
it, but also that the star itself was in the east. 2.)
Herod inquires of it (v. 7). 3.) The star reappears to
them and then leads them somehow to the exact spot of
the Holy Family (v. 9). 4.) It fills them with joy (v.
Some things argue that this is not an ordinary star.
First, they saw it, then they did not see it, then they
saw it again (in v. 10). Furthermore, it brought them to
one spot. No star could do that, way up in the sky.
Every star is above us, and if any human attempted to
use a star as a pinpoint on the map, he would walk until
he died never getting to any one location. Give it a try
and test it for yourself: follow a star, and see whether
it brings to to just one point. More still, when the
star reappeared in v. 10, the Magi recognized it,
distinguishing it from every other star.
We said a few weeks ago how angels permeate the whole
narration of the nativity of Christ. There are angels
everywhere in these passages; and for that, I spoke that
weekend of the nine choirs of angels and other doctrines
we know about them. We also know that stars are used
often in the sacred scriptures – sometimes to mean the
sons of Abraham, or other things, but also as angels (eg.,
cf. Baruch 3:34, Is 14:13, Dan 3:23, Dan 8:10; 1
Corinthians 15:41; Rev. 12:4, etc.). You may be more
familiar with the breathtaking passage of the war in
heaven, where St. Michael the Archangel, whom we invoke
and venerate in this parish, cast Satan out of heaven;
but when he fell, he swept a third of the stars from the
sky, meaning that he took some portion of the angels,
not the majority with him into hell to burn forever.
There is a passage in Daniel somewhat similar (Dan
Therefore, it is not impossible that the Holy Spirit,
through St. Matthew, in today’s Gospel, is telling us
that an angel appeared to these Magi in the east and
brought them directly to Jesus Christ. St. Augustine
asserts as much (Serm. 374,1). He asks, How did the Magi
know that the appearance of this star had this meaning,
that the king of the Jews was born, and that they should
bring him gifts? He concludes it was by an angel who
revealed as much to them; and it was a good angel, not a
fallen angel or demon, because he instructed them to go
to Jesus and not away from him, and to honor him rather
than do him evil as Herod had planned.
So this star was either a miraculous light created by
God, who does all his miracles through his angels,
resembling a star, and appearing, disappearing, and
appearing again, and moving in such a way as to direct
these men to the Christ child, or it was an angel who
manifested his presence to them and instructed them by
word or intellectual communication.
Therefore, this star served as a “messenger,” and
this is what the word “angel” means in its etymological
origin; for in ancient Greek, in which today’s text was
originally written (I reject the “Matthew in Aramaic
first” version as there is no real evidence of it), the
word for messenger is “angelos.” And this angel,
this star, this messenger did only one thing: it brought
the creatures to the creator, the pagans to the true
God, the Magi to Jesus Christ who was and is always with
Mary and Joseph.
How can we apply all this to our own lives? I think
we can compare our travelling in this world to the
journey of the Magi in various ways. They were not
alone, nor are we; our live if essentially a religious
pilgrimage before anything else, as was theirs; but also
in this, that on their way they were guided by an angel.
We too, each one of us, is guided by an angel. The
angels are beautiful, powerful to the point of being
terrible and mighty, but they are full of love for God
the Holy Trinity and for us whom the help. They always
behold the face of God; they never abandon us; they love
us as friends; they help us conceive and perceive God’s
inspirations in ways too supernatural for us to
understand; they protect us against demons and
temptations; they watch us when we sleep; they are
witnesses to all our deeds, be they good or evil; they
assist us in death; they console the souls of purgatory;
and they will join us forever in heaven.
Pray often to your guardian angel. You probably will
not hear voices, or will not see a light or star as the
Magi. But trust that they are helping you, in ways that
you cannot feel or see. And may the Angels lead us to
Jesus, where he is with Mary his Virginal Mother and
Joseph who cared for them both. Amen.■