O Star of Wonder

I puzzled for years over the tradition that the Magi were led to Bethlehem by a star. I read all sorts of ingenious explanations: that, as expert astronomers, the Chaldeans were uniquely equipped to navigate to Bethlehem by celestial observation, or that there had been a supernova whose light reached Earth for the first time shortly before the Nativity, or the like. None of them quite made sense. How could something outside the orbit of the moon indicate a specific town on Earth?

Then a few years ago I learned that the ancients – and, indeed, almost all cultures other than our own in these its latter days – all thought the stars are gods – or heroes translated to the heavens at their sacrificial death. I.e., they thought – translating into the terms of Israel – that the stars are angels or saints or martyrs. The stars are the bodies and kingdoms of the Holy Ones – or, at least, are one sort of their embodiments, and of their kingdoms (there might be other sorts; there almost certainly are other sorts).

It was not until this last year that I realized that the Magi must have been guided to Bethlehem by an angel, who appeared to them in his glory as a brilliant star. This was perhaps the same angel who appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem. He could have led the shepherds and the Magi in exactly the way that the Israelites were led through the wilderness by a pillar of fire and of cloud. The Israelites took that fire and that cloud to be YHWH himself, or perhaps his angel Michael – or under some interpretations, both (as an angel of YHWH, Michael partakes his Lord, so that the presence of Michael is effectually the presence of YHWH).

The modernist can make no sense of such notions. Under the terms of his metaphysics, they simply *cannot* make sense; modern metaphysics cannot begin to comprehend them. Moderns think of stars as nothing but burning gas. Likewise moderns think of our bodies as nothing but burning liquids.

But, as CS Lewis reminds us in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we must not err to think that because stars are *made* of gas, that is all that they *are.* Likewise then also for us, and our bodies.

As our bodies are bodies of things spiritual and real, things actual, so may the stars be such bodies.

So then might a human baby be the body of an angel – indeed, of the Great Angel himself, YHWH, Only Begotten Son of the Most High, and Lord of the Universe, who is its Law, its Lógos, its Source and End.

These considerations offer us a clue to understanding a common puzzle about the Incarnation: where is the rest of YHWH when he becomes incarnate as Jesus? The answer is fairly simple, once we see it: just as the embodiment of angels in stars – or for that matter in human bodies, as at Mamre – does not mean that such embodiments exhaust all that angels *are,* so likewise that YHWH is incarnate in Jesus does not mean he is nothing but the body of Jesus.

A Merry Christmas to all my friends of the Orthosphere, and a Happy New Year.

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Post Scriptum: That the Star of Bethlehem was an angel would not alone render those other aforementioned ingenious explanations untrue. If the Incarnation really happens, then ipso facto it must be manifestly evident throughout the cosmos – not just her spatial extent, but her temporal extent as well – and in all her aspects. Had we the wit of the Chaldean Magi, we might better discern its character, everywhere we might look. How indeed could it be otherwise? For, in virtue of his Incarnation in a single human body of our cosmos, YHWH is implicitly incarnate in the whole shooting match; for, bodies are procedures of worlds, and integral thereto. YHWH is incarnate then in the whole world; that is what it must mean, in part, to say that he is her Lógos.

10 thoughts on “O Star of Wonder

  1. Thank you, and Merry Christmas! This is something I had not thought of before. Today on The Stream, I learned that there is genuine documentation for late Dec as the actual birthday of Jesus. And now, from you, I learn how the Magi were guided. There’s a blessed component to the internet that makes it all worthwhile, and these are examples. 🙂

    • Merry Christmas, Tina. Yes, the internet, too – like every other aspect of the created order, including even Hell – is a nexus of synchronicity, that bears in all its instances the character of the Logos.

  2. The ancients thought that stars were gods. Olaf Stapledon, the mid-Twentieth Century science-fiction writer and philosophy professor (Liverpool), thought that the internal complexity of stars, including the sun, implied their brain-like capacity for intelligence. My late friend Richard Fader, one of the most intelligent people whom I have ever met, found himself entranced by Stapledon’s speculation. In honor of my late friend, I record here my faith that the stars have knowledge of what transpires on the Earth and that one of them guided the Three Sages to Bethlehem. Merry Christmas to all.

    • Stapledon was the first science fiction I read as serious cosmology. Years later when I read the first pages of The Silmarillion, I thought to myself, “this reminds me of Starmaker.”

  3. Pingback: O Star of Wonder | Reaction Times

  4. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton – Merry (somewhat blackpilled) Christmas To All | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

  5. I believe that the word “star” in ancient languages is defined phenomenologically, as any of the points of light in the night sky. By this definition, calling Mars (for example) a “wandering star” is not a mistake, because “ball of gas” is not part of the definition. Clearly if the “star” stopped over Bethlehem, it couldn’t have been a “star” in the modern definition of that word (or anything else very far from Earth). An angel or other miraculous being in the Earth’s atmosphere has long seemed to me to be the most natural reading.

    • Yes. In retrospect, it astonishes me that it took so long for me to realize the same thing. I was stuck on the modern definition of “star,” so stuck that *I did not even know that I was stuck.* Try to fit the modern definition into the story of the Magi and it’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole.

      This in part is why it is so difficult for moderns to read scripture, theology, the Fathers, the ancient pagans, and even classical philosophy as anything other than the bad, false and at bottom rather risible sort of myth: we are stuck in the terms of our modern discourse, and do not know there is any other. It takes a lot of work to climb out of that discourse even enough to see that there are others, equally if not more adequate to life and experience.

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