The shepherds and the three wise men were the first people to know the newborn Jesus. Thus we read in the Gospel of Matthew: “Some Magi came from the east to Jerusalem and asked: where is the King of the Jews who were born?”. In the scriptures, we hear of some Magi who came from the East to see Jesus. But they don’t give us much information about the names or the gifts they brought to the Child Jesus.
To obtain this information, it is necessary to search in other scriptures. Such as the Armenian Childhood Gospel, one of the apocryphal scriptures. Here we can learn more about who the three kings are and better understand their history. Keep reading!
The story of the Three Wise Men
In the Gospel of the Armenian Childhood, we can read that the three wise men were brothers. The first and the eldest, Melkon, reigned over the Persians, and the second, Balthasar, reigned over the Indians. And the third, Gaspar, reigned over the countries of the Arabs. God’s will unites the three brothers. And for this reason, they arrived when the moment the Virgin Mary became Mother.
The three wise men were astrologers, sages, and priests. So also Pope Ratzinger reports that they “belonged to the Persian priestly caste. Perhaps they were astronomers. They were wise men from the East ”. They came from Persia and are believed to be ” Zoroastrians. ” In the Arab Childhood Gospel, we read: “The Magi came to Jerusalem, as Zarathustra had predicted, bringing gifts with them.”
In short, the dualism of Zoroaster (630 BC – 750 AD) is essentially based on the distinction between good and evil that does not appeal only to men but to the inner world. According to Zoroaster, there was a need to fight evil and seek the truth. In fact, since the first centuries of Christianity, the Magi have been recognized as strongly positive people, in constant search of spiritual light and rejecting darkness. This is why they were considered men of prayer and priests.
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Representation of the Three Wise Men
The cult of the Three Kings
The Kings were shamans linked to the cult of the stars and priests of the god Ahura Mazda. The protector of all creatures. According to some astronomers, following the reading of the sky, the three brothers had recognized one of their “Saosayansh” in Christ. Or the universal savior, thus becoming the link between the oriental mystery cults. Such as Buddhism and Mazdaism. And the new nascent religion, Christianity.
Even today, the cult of the King is powerful, particularly in some Italian regions that preserve his relics. According to legend, the mortal remains of the three kings were recovered in India by Saint Helena and then brought to Constantinople. In 1034 it seems that these relics were transported to Milan on board an ark and deposited inside the church of Sant’Eustorgio, full of symbolisms linked to the three kings and still a place of pilgrimage today.
The adventures of the relics of the three kings
The relics of the three kings roamed the cities until they reached the north of Italy. We can find a testimony of the custody in the Church of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan. An ancient inscription on the left side, if you look at the church’s facade, says: ” Basilica Eustorgiana Titulo Regibus Magis. ” This writing would attest to the presence of the bodies of the Magi inside the church.
It is no coincidence that the Ambrosian church, in the calendar and the liturgical books dated before the 10th century, is called the Basilica of the Kings. During the siege of Frederick Barbarossa in 1164, the remains of the Magi were stolen and transported to Cologne, where a basilica was built to contain and guard them with extreme care.
This city was so attached to the relics that it became impossible to bring them back to Milan over the centuries. Ludovico il Moro’s attempt in 1434 also failed miserably. In the early years of the last century, Colo Cardinal Ferrari managed to obtain the bones and place them in a very precious tabernacle above the altar of the magi.
What the gifts of the three kings symbolize
The tradition of the three Kings who reach the feet of the Child Jesus on the day of the Epiphany, January 6, has been born in the present day. We know that the three wealthy brothers each brought a gift with a specific meaning. In particular, they refer to the dual nature of Jesus, the divine and the human. The gifts are gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold is given because it is the gift reserved for kings, and Jesus is the King of kings. Incense, on the other hand, testifies to the adoration of his divinity because Jesus is God. Finally, myrrh is used in the cult of the dead to remember that Jesus is a man and, as such, mortal.
From the gifts brought to Jesus comes the tradition of bringing toys and sweets to children. This custom is linked to the legend of the Befana and tells how the Magi. During the long journey to Bethlehem, they stopped at the older woman’s house and invited her to join them. She refused the invitation and let the three kings go, but then she thought better of it. And decided to follow them. Unfortunately, she could not find them. And then, she decided to leave a small gift to all the children to hope that Jesus was among them.
Like many other essential components, including those that represent the nativity in the crib, even the Three Kings cannot be missing. Some prefer to place them next to the hut on the day of the epiphany, and those who reserve a special place for the three kings, well away from the manger to simulate their journey, approach them little by little, every day more until finally, they reach the Child Jesus.
Like the other statues, we can find wise men of different sizes and materials for sale, from the most precious and elaborate to the simplest. You can choose the statues for the nativity scene on Amazon to set up the perfect representation. Visit the page!