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.
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.