Monday, December 29, 2014

The Magi and Astrology

Since the Magi believed that there was a mystical influence of the stars upon earthlings, they would constantly study the heavens, seeking extraordinary signs which might herald the "Expected One", as it was prophesied by the soothsayer Balaam and the Prophet Daniel in the 70 Weeks Prophecy he made while in Babylon. As Blessed Theophylact, Patriarch of Bulgaria, aptly states: "Because the Magi were astrologists, the Lord brought them in an ordinary manner, as Peter, being a fisherman, came away from the multitude of the fish."1 The well known Dismissal hymn for Christmas also speaks of them, saying, "For they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship You, the Sun of righteousness, and to know You, the Dayspring on high."2

Saint Kosmas the Poet writes concerning this: "The Magi, beholding the strange course of an unknown and newly shining star that exceeded the brightness of all heavenly light, learned thereby that Christ the King was born on earth in Bethlehem for our salvation."3

The Orthodox Church forbids Christians to dabble in astrology and horoscopes; and the Magi understood that the coming of Christ was the utter destruction of their art. As St. John Chrysostom says: "Whereas the Magi acknowledged that the coming of Christ would terminate their profane knowledge and magical arts, the Jews would not accept the Lawgiver's doing away with their sacrifices and refused to accept the mysteries of the divine dispensation."4

Furthermore, St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, exhorts us not to believe that one's destiny is determined by the stars, and remarks: "Far be it from the faithful to believe that there is such a thing as fate. Certain heretics (Priscillian) believe that every person is born subject to the rule of the stars. They assume this to support their error, that a new star came out when the Lord appeared in the flesh. They hold that this same star was His destiny. Let us reflect on the words of the Gospel that speak of this very star: "...till it came and stood over where the young Child was" (Mt. 2:9). Thus, it is clear that it is not the Child Who is the destiny of the star.... For it the Creator Who has made the lives of all men Who alone governs them. Man was not made for the stars, but rather the stars were made for man."5

1. Theophylact (765-840), P.G. 123:61.
2. Dismissal Hymn of the Nativity of Christ, Mode Four.
3. Matins Canon of the Nativity of Christ, Ode Nine, Mode One.
4. Homily on the Epiphany.
5. Homily 10, "On the Gifts of the Magi", P.L. 74:1110.