December 31, 2020

Was the Christmas Star Really an Angel?

The Star of Bethlehem depicted as an Angel on horseback.

By Pseudo-Caesarius of Nazianzus

(Four Dialogues, Dialogue 2.107, P.G. 38)

Question 107: Since the stars do not contribute to the birth of humans, nor can we relate what concerns us to them, how did a star appear with the birth of Christ and become the guide of the Magi? And how did they realize that the star was royal and began their journey because of the star with the intention and haste to worship the "child"?

Answer: Because the Samaritans and the Sadducees did not accept the existence of angels, the divine evangelist [i.e. the apostle Matthew] apparently used the word "star" instead of the word "angel". After all, by referring to Christ and respecting the stars, that is, putting the star in the place of the angel, he not only removed people from the polytheist delusion, but also led them to worship [the divine infant]. Otherwise none of the magi would hasten to worship, but this was done based on the imagination of their own belief. But when [the magi] would have in mind the birth of the God-man, who established the stars and defined their order, the magic would fade. Thus, the wandering Chaldeans [i.e. the magi] for the sake of this fact understood their error and became evangelists and first preachers to the nations of the incarnation of the Word of God. They took up the prophecies of the exalted Isaiah, who cried out: "For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder, and his name is called the angel of great counsel, wonderful counsellor, mighty God, executor of authority, prince of peace, father of the age to come." Five hundred years from this divine prophecy, and having heard nothing of what they had received, the mindless Jews studied the law and the prophets, and their faith went on.

That it was not a star but some invisible and rational power that guided the magi we learn from its very movement and position. Because stars that move never calm down and those that are still never move. But the star of our case is capable of both. Sometimes it moved and sometimes it stood still and again hid from the traveling magi, to the point where they asked: "Where is the king of the Jews that has been born?" (Matt. 2:9) But if the star did not appear at intervals, Jerusalem would not be shaken by the question of the magi, nor would Herod be angry when he heard of the [new] king. For, if the star were presented only as a power of the mind and reason, he would not serve the one who was born […].

What looks like a star and what is meant to be an angel is a guide to nations. In other words, which is bigger for you, a star or the sun? You will definitely say that it is the sun. When it is mediocre, everyone can say exactly what is in every city or town or in every house, as if pointing with his finger. If you compare between a star and the sun, their relationship is like between a gnat and an elephant, while if you compare between the divine star and the largest city, the difference will be like between a camel and a mosquito. If, then, we know that the king of the luminaries [i.e. the sun] is unable to stand still to show us any great city, how would the little star point to the cave, unless it were an angel descending from heaven to earth to declare His authority?

Let go of the nonsense that some believe that the stars appear at the birth of each of us, as well as the idiocy of some mythologists that with the death of someone their star also dies. Because when there were only two people in the world, namely Adam and Eve, the sky was full of stars. The stars did not disappear again when all life on earth was destroyed except for Noah and his family. The stars were not destroyed by the flood, nor did they deviate from their familiar order for a moment.