The ancient world, in all its parts, had what we strictly or loosely call "Philosophers", that is those who "love wisdom" (which is what Philosopher means). Wisdom is avidly searched for because wisdom is the prerequisite or requirement for happiness, and happiness, perfect happiness, is what we all want, all the time. Love here includes "search for". Thus, Philosophers love or search for wisdom, and they do this all their lives, since it seems to take that long to learn the wisdom which leads one to happiness. The field of study is, in a word, all creation: all that is above, on or below the earth, both my individual psychology and group psychology, political science, art, medicine. The assumption of these Philosophers is that ALL creation has secrets to reveal – and will reveal them if only someone will "love" or "search after" and find them. East of Palestine was territory controlled by kings who sought every means to make their kingdoms live in happiness. These kings employed the best of their nation’s Philosophers, on the supposition that these men, from their incessant study, would provide kings with the knowledge or wisdom to make the kingdom a success. One of the main contributions of these eastern Philosophers was, of course, a wise answer to the question, "Should I go to war or not?" In these territories these intellectual, professional specialists were called Magi (a word taken from the ancient Persian language). As with all of these perpetual students, the Magi would regularly study the heavens to see what they might offer in the search for happiness. (We, too, have people who think that the heavens will reveal truths about their days, so that they will be more alert in their search for daily happiness – horoscopes, no? And our attention to ocean tides and to the Weather Man are also ways we have of securing our future.) The Magi of the New Testament, then, are not kings, but work for a king. Their unending searching of the heavens brought them to realize that a new king was being born, east of their own nation. Their king, wanting to begin good relations with this new king, had some of his Magi bring royal gifts to this new king; thus, two kingdoms should be at peace with each other by virtue of these gifts and the obeisance paid to this new king. Knowledge or wisdom, then, should lead to peace, which is a big part of human happiness. So, the Magi proved to be an essential element in their nation’s search for happiness; they read the wisdom contained in their sciences correctly, and so began a journey to the newborn King. May modern-day Magi, professional students of all aspects of our world, do the same for our happiness. John Kilgallen, SJ

Comments

Anonymous | 1/7/2009 - 9:07am
Oh for pity's sake, Father, tell the truth. The magi (the root of the word magician) were Astrologers. They did cast horoscopes, both natal and horary (predicting the course of events from the start point). Under the system they used, Aries was considered the sign of Israel and a particularly auspecious conjunction within it involving Jupiter and Saturn, possibly with the inclusion of a solar eclipse, plus a knowledge of the prophetic literature of Israel, led them to believe that the Jewish Messiah was to be born. No other explanation makes sense as to why they would come. This inconvenient piece of truth may be unpopular with certain conservatives in the Church, both in and out of Rome. The unpopularity of truth does not change its reality.