The feast of the Magi is commonly called "Epiphany", a word that in Greek means "manifestation", in the sense that God reveals himself and makes himself known. This holiday is celebrated on January 6 in different parts of the world.
The church celebrates as Epiphany three manifestations of the life of Jesus:
The Epiphany before the magicians of the East (manifestation to the pagans).
The term "magician" referred to the "wise" in ancient times. In this case they were wise men who came "from the East." This may have been a reference of places like Arabia, Mesopotamia or somewhere else east of Palestine.
Epiphany of the Baptism of the Lord (manifestation to the Jews).
The Wedding Epiphany of Cana (manifestation to his disciples
In the Gospel of Matthew it is said that “Born Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, in the time of King Herod, magicians who came from the East appeared in Jerusalem, saying:“ Where is the King of the Jews who was born? Well, we saw his star in the East and we have come to worship him. ”
Experts say that the fact that they were guided by a star suggests that they were instructed in astrology or in the science of navigation and in the calculation of time through stellar configurations.
In ancient astrology, Jupiter was considered the star of the Prince of the world.
The magicians appear, in their first time, as a priestly caste of Media and Persia. They also devoted themselves to the study of wisdom. It was the writer and theologian of the third century Origen, one of the three pillars of Christian theology, who first proposed that they be three magicians because of the three gifts offered to the child.
In the paintings of the catacombs of Santa Priscila, since the beginning of the second century, they were represented only as Persian nobles. On the other hand, in art they began to be presented as kings since the eighth century.
From the eighth century, the Magi received names, with some variations. The first were Bithisarea, Melchior and Gathaspa. Already in the Middle Ages they were even revered as saints.
The names of Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar, are given, in the ninth century, the historian Agnello, in his work "Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis".
How are the three wise men represented?
Melchor is generally represented as a white elder with a beard by people from the European zone and offers the Child gold for the royalty of Christ.
Gaspar represents the Asian zone and carries the incense for the divinity of Jesus.
Baltazar is black on behalf of Africa and gives the Savior myrrh, a substance that was used to embalm corpses and a symbol of the Lord's humanity.
At the time they began to be painted with these characteristics, there was no knowledge of America. In addition, the three refer to the ages of the human being: youth (Gaspar), maturity (Baltazar) and old age (Melchor).
The scene of the magicians worshiping the child Jesus became the favorite theme in the art of bas-reliefs, miniatures and stained glass. In many homes, today, the three Wise Men are part of the Christmas decoration.
Folklore, Religions, and Myths