In truth, however, I've been reading about the Magi for the last several days. For Christmas, I purchased The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a collection of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions.
On Thursday night, I started getting the first snippets of her visions of the Three Kings. I have to admit, I was really surprised. With all the specials I'd seen via the History Channel, I thought I had them pegged as master astronomers who only understood this "king" to be the political kind. I also thought there was a group of them, watered down through history as "3" to represent the 3 symbolic gifts presented to the Christ-child.
Boy did I learn a thing or two...
These men were, in fact, kings. Yes, they were master astronomers, but their astronomy went well beyond star-gazing for clues as to the next political uprising. Apparently, their lineage was established more than 500 years before the Star of Bethlehem came to be. God had granted 3 of their ancestors a vision which predicted that a Child would be born of a Virgin. This Child would come to rule the world and bring peace and prosperity to all who accepted Him.
The sisters then were given a promise of celestial signs that this promised Child was born. Ever since, these people looked to the stars in anticipation of the Child's birth. Unfortunately, some people believed that the practice of sacrificing children would bring about the Child's coming faster. Thousands of innocent children were sacrificed in a cruel manner (they were flayed and their blood spread throughout a temple dedicated to the Virgin).
Thankfully, at the birth of Our Lady, the 3 Kings were gifted a vision of a Virgin in the stars. This wasn't just an astronomical sign - they actually saw a Virgin holding a balanced scale in the sky and understood that the time for the Child would soon be at hand. At the same time, a priest within the Temple of the Virgin also received a vision in which he came to understand that sacrificing children was a horrendous thing and must be ceased immediately. From that moment forward, the sacrifice of children stopped there.
No doubt God granted this mercy in honor of Mary who, having been born into the world, would never wish for such an atrocity to occur in her name. Our Lady, not yet a Mother, still brought peace and life to children just through her blessed and perfect existence on Earth.
Anyway, the 3 Kings truly were 3 in number and all related in direct lineage from those first prophets 500 years ago. They came from "afar" and were truly pious, holy men. Though they didn't believe in "God" as the Jews did, they understood that a higher power was calling them to lead lives of justice and humility. They longed for the Promised Child who would unite the world under peace and love. Thus, when they recognized the star announcing His Birth, they didn't hesitate to put together their gifts (well thought out given their 500 year prep time) and be on the move.
As they traveled, they drew a large following (about 200 people). Since the kings were generous in their alms, folks flocked to them. Everywhere these men went, they asked about the Newborn King. No one knew what they were talking about! The kings were confused and troubled by the lack of regard for this Holy Child. Everywhere they went they became more and more baffled as no one wanted to hear anything about this Child. The kings were treated kindly because of their obvious riches, but otherwise were looked upon as fools.
How loving God was to open the eyes of Gentiles. When these men (and their entourage) finally arrived at the Cave of the Nativity, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were moved by their gifts (which really were gold, frankincense and myrrh - among many other things). They were so happy that such wise and holy men had come to pay homage to God. Even though the Holy Family was turned away and treated with disregard by their own people, Gentiles had come, seeing with their hearts the Truth of God's Love.
As the priest said in his homily, the 3 Wise Men are proof that God is the God of ALL people. God calls all of us to Himself. We have the free will to answer His call.