“and behold the star … went before them”
Thursday, 7 January 2021
Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis also comments on another character in our Epiphany story. For him, and for us, the star is as much a character in this drama as are the Magi, Herod, and the Child.
“It appears and disappears at will; and it moves with total certainty and obedience toward the place that draws it toward itself. The created light of the star bears silent, dazzling witness to the uncreated Light come to earth and hiding in a cave. At the sight of this star, the Wise Men “rejoiced with joy that is great indeed”. How distant and petty now appear to us, in the light of the star and the Magi’s joy, all of Herod’s anxiety and frenzy, which only a moment ago wholly dominated the scene! This moving star, this dynamic light, is a source of profound joy to the Magi, the long-awaited reward of a life of patient and humble search within a religion and a culture alien to the revelation received by Israel. But what is light to the seekers of the truth is also condemnation, a source of danger and exposure, to those who deal in darkness. Did the Magi not see the star again just outside Herod’s palace? What kept Herod from seeing it himself? Did he have to do more than step out onto one of his rooftop terraces, where he would have had the whole night sky of Palestine at his disposal? Herod was a prisoner in the airless sky of his own mind, where no stars can shine because the skull is too hard, impermeable to the light, the true Platonic cave. When the Magi saw the star, they were indeed looking at a manifest sign provided by grace; but they were also looking at the light of their own faith objectified in the airborne brightness, suspended in the night of the world. To find something that is given, one must first be looking for it. To understand an answer, one must first have asked the question, otherwise the explanation will sound like a foreign tongue, or like empty silence.”
(Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis.)