Dr. Scott Hahn on the Early Christian Church and the Eucharist.
Dr. Scott Hahn on the Early Christian Church and the Eucharist.
For those who are just joining this study, we are going through the parts of the Catholic Mass and seeing how it is connected to the Bible. For a convert like me, it is fascinating to learn how the Mass picks up where the Bible leaves off. I learned that the Mass was the only way that Christians could encounter and learn about Jesus Christ for the first 1,500 years of Christianity (before the printing press was invented). As a matter of fact, the Catholic Mass is still the only way Christians can physically encounter Christ — His Body and Blood through the Eucharist. If you’re interested, the six parts to Lesson 1 can be found here. Please join me in exploring Lesson 2 – The Mass and the Old Testament, an online Bible study provided by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.
Biblical worship is the offering of sacrifice. Our worship in the Mass is likewise a form of sacrificial offering.
We hear this repeatedly in the Mass, although we may not notice it or fully understand what it means.
For instance, after the priest prepares the altar, he addresses us with these words: “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”
We respond: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His Name, for our good and the good of all His Church.”
Sacrifice was a universal practice in the religions of the ancient world and it is of the essence of the religious devotion and practice found in the Bible.
Here we have some examples of sacrifice in the Old Testament that prefigures what Catholics celebrate in the Mass:
Adam and Eve’s children offer sacrifices – Cain from the fruits of the earth, Abel from the firstlings of his flock (see Genesis 4:3-4). Noah, too, seems to have inherited a tradition of worship that includes burnt offerings of animals (see Genesis 7:2; 8:20).
Abraham, the father of the chosen people, responds to God’s call by building an altar and offering sacrifices (see Genesis 15:8-10; 22:13). Throughout the early part of the Bible, Abraham’s sons are frequently seen building altars and offering sacrifices (see Genesis 33:20; 35:1-7).
Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in the Bible. He is a “priest of God Most High.” He is also King of Salem, a land that would later be called “Jeru-salem,” meaning “City of Peace” (see Psalm 76:2).
This combination of priest and king is rare in the Old Testament. But later we will see this designation applied to the royal son of David (see Psalm 110:4) and, in the New Testament, to Jesus (see Hebrews 7).
Melchizedek’s sacrifice is also extraordinary in that it involved no animals. He offered bread and wine, as Jesus would at the Last Supper.
This is interesting… I didn’t know that Melchizedek offered only bread and wine as sacrifice. Doesn’t the name “Melchizedek” come up again in the New Testament?
Melchizedek’s sacrifice concluded with the priestly blessing of Abraham. And Abraham would later return to Salem to make his own offering.
At the mountain of Moriah, a site that would later be identified with Jerusalem’s Temple (see 2 Chronicles 3:1), Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only beloved son, Isaac.
As we will see in our next lesson, in the story of the “binding” of Isaac, the New Testament writers saw a foreshadowing God’s offering of his only beloved Son on the Cross (see Genesis 22:12,15; John 3:16).
Notice the language in the story told in Genesis 22. The words “his son” or “the boy” are used 11 times in 15 verses. The only words that Isaac speaks begin with the word, “Father.” As if to drive home the point even further, the narrator of the story says, “Isaac spoke to his father…”
All of this will become even more important when we study our Lord’s sacrifice in our next lesson.
This is the last part to Lesson 1 of the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The other parts can be found here:
Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. If the fact that the original Apostles celebrated the two-part Mass (see Acts 2:42, Luke 24:25, and Acts 20:7-12) is not enough to convince a person that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith, then what if the Mass was celebrated by the Resurrected Jesus Himself? Do you know where Jesus gave the first Mass after He rose from the dead? Check out Luke 24:13-35, again, and notice the parts of the Mass throughout the scene of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus proclaimed the Old Testament Scriptures (i.e. the First Reading in Mass), talked about how they are fulfilled (i.e. the Second Reading and the Gospel Reading during Sunday Masses), and celebrated with the blessing, breaking and giving of bread (i.e., the Liturgy of the Eucharist). The phrase “breaking bread” was Luke’s code-word for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Lastly, Lesson 1 concludes with the significance of the Sign of the Cross. It’s not only a humble gesture that marks a person as distinctly Catholic, but a mark of protection by which “the Lord knows who are His” (see 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Tim 2:19). The Book of Revelation refers to the seal on our foreheads that spare us from destruction (see Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). Makes you want to do the Sign of the Cross more often, doesn’t it? Amen!
The first descriptions we have of the Church in the New Testament are decidedly “eucharistic.”
Luke says, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to . . . the breaking of the bread” (see Acts 2:42).
The “teachings of the Apostles” are sermons like those recorded in Acts and writings inspired by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Corinthians 2:13). The “breaking of the bread” is Luke’s word for the Eucharist (see Luke 24:35; Acts 20:7,11).
Here then, in this most ancient description of the Church’s life, we see Word and Sacrament, Bible and Liturgy, united.
And the New Testament was composed and developed in the context of the early Church’s worship.
Greetings and blessings in these letters were often adapted from prayers and hymns used in the Liturgy (see 1 Peter 1:2-5; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:6-12; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).
The Book of Revelation was written to be “read aloud” during worship (see Revelation 1:3). And the shape of the Gospels – which consist of many short episodes from Jesus’ life and teaching – probably indicates that these scenes were first written down to be read in the Mass.
“Faith comes from what is heard,” Paul said (see Romans 10:17). And the early Church heard God’s Word in the Mass.
Early Eucharistic celebrations followed the same “two-part” structure as our Mass today – readings from “the teachings of the Apostles” followed by the “breaking of the bread.”
We see this in a story of Paul celebrating the Eucharist in Troas. His sermon lasted until midnight, causing one of his parishioners to fall asleep and plunge to his death. Undeterred, Paul revived the man and continued the service. He “broke the bread” (see Acts 20:7-12).
In addition to the Apostles’ teachings, the earliest liturgies probably included readings from the Old Testament.
That’s the testimony of perhaps our oldest account of the Eucharist outside the Bible. Describing this part of the Mass in 155 A.D., St. Justin Martyr said “the memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of the prophets are read” followed by a homily (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1345.)
Use of the Old Testament in the Liturgy – as well as the “two-part” structure of the Mass – can be traced to the example of Jesus.
In fact, the Bible and the Mass were inseparably united for all time by Jesus himself on the first Easter night.
Luke tells us that upon rising from the dead, Jesus encountered two disciples on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-35).
They didn’t recognize Him at first. Nonetheless, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” Jesus explained the meaning of the Old Testament to them – showing how all the promises God made there were fulfilled in Him (see also Luke 24:44-48). As He spoke their hearts were “burning within.”
Then Jesus sat down at table, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.
Notice Luke’s deliberate use of the same words used in his Last Supper narrative: At table, Jesus takes . . . blesses . . . breaks . . . and gives the bread (compare Luke 22:14-20).
Luke is giving us a picture of the Eucharist, the first to be celebrated after the Resurrection.
Jesus first “proclaims” the Scriptures, showing how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament made in His blood. Then He gives thanks for this covenant in the breaking of the bread.
When He does this, the promise of the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, is fulfilled – the disciples’ eyes are opened and they come to “know” Jesus in intimate communion.
Since that night, believers have gathered every Sunday, the day of the Resurrection known as the Lord’s day (see Revelation 1:10; Acts 20:7). In this gathering we open the Scriptures, and break the bread.
And when we do that in the Mass, we relive the experience of the disciples at Emmaus. The Scriptures are fulfilled – the Word of His new covenant “burns within” as if being written in our hearts; and our eyes are opened in faith to know Him in the breaking of the bread.
That’s why we begin the Mass the way we do.
Jesus commissioned His Apostles to preach His Word and to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19).
As newborn sons and daughters of the Father, the baptized gain access to the family table of the Lord’s supper. There they “tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” (see Hebrews 6:4).
This is the biblical legacy we recall – and become a part of – at the start of every Mass. As we make the Sign of the Cross and repeat the words of the Lord’s final commission, we remember and renew our covenant with God, made when we were baptized.
The Apostles began the tradition of marking the newly baptized with the Sign of the Cross.
The Bible’s last book reveals that those marked with “the seal of God on their foreheads” are spared from destruction (see Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4) and are called to participate in a heavenly liturgy – “the wedding feast” or “marriage supper of the Lamb” (see Revelation 19:7,9; 21:9).
As we’ll see in this course, that’s where we truly are in the Mass. We have been saved from sin and death and are happy to have been called to the Lamb’s Supper.
The Bible leaves off with the Lord’s promise that He is coming soon (see Revelation 22:20). And where the Bible leaves off, the Mass begins.
This is Part 5 to the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The other parts can be found here:
Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. This lesson points out how the Gospel of John explains the theological significance of the Eucharist and also summarizes what Scriptures say about the Eucharist.
John’s Gospel doesn’t record the scene from the upper room.
This isn’t surprising. In general, John is more concerned to explain the deep biblical background of Jesus’ words and deeds and to fill-in apparent gaps in the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Though he doesn’t narrate Jesus saying, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood,” John gives us two sermons in which Jesus says something very similar.
In the one, delivered in a synagogue at Capernaum during Passover, He says two times: “I am the Bread of Life” (see John 6:34, 51). In the other, delivered at the Last Supper (see John 13:2,4), Jesus again says two times: “I am the Vine” (see John 15:1,5).
In both scenes, Jesus makes a direct statement about His identity (“I am”). He also uses the same expression in both to describe the life-giving communion He has come to bring.
Those who eat Him as the Bread of Life “remain in Me,” he says. Those who are joined to Him through the Eucharistic wine, the fruit of the true Vine, also “remain in Me,” He says (compare John 6:56; John 15:4-7).
This is the summary of how the Eucharist is explained in the Scriptures:
The Eucharist is “covenantal.” As presented in the Gospels, the Eucharist is the climax of the salvation history unfolded in the covenants of the Old Testament. It has a special relationship to Israel’s Passover and Exodus.
The Eucharist is sacrificial and atones for sin. That’s the literal meaning of the words attributed to Jesus at the Last Supper.
The Eucharist is a memorial that creates the Church, the body of those who believe. The command to “do this” calls the Church into being. Through its remembrance, the Church offers God’s new and everlasting covenant to all generations.
The Eucharist is communion in the Body and Blood of Jesus that brings eternal life. As Paul says of the Eucharist: “Is it not a participation (literally “communion”) in the Blood of Christ . . . in the Body of Christ?” (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).
The Eucharist is eating and drinking in the Kingdom of God until the Lord comes. The Eucharist remembers a past salvific event, relives that event in the present, and stirs hope for a future salvific happening – the final coming of the Lord.
There is so much to the Eucharist, it is very difficult for me to absorb all at once. It’s very clear to me that the Eucharist is what truly separates Catholic Christians from other ecclesial communities. If what the Church says about the Eucharist is not true, then how can Catholics even be called Christians? We would be guilty of idolatry because we’d be worshipping bread and wine. The Eucharist is the center of everything! Why can’t I go to daily Mass? Lord, help me!
This is Part 4 to the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The other parts can be found here:
Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. This lesson shows how all the synoptic Gospels define what the New Covenant (Testament) really was (and still is). The New Covenant is the Mass (specifically the Eucharist), not a collection of sacred documents canonized 300 years after the death of Christ.
Each recalls the Eucharist’s beginnings in close, though not identical, details.
Each agrees it was during Passover – the feast God instituted on the eve of Israel’s flight from Egypt (see Exodus 12:1-28). They agree, too, that it was the night before He died, during His final meal with His Apostles.
During the meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying, “This is My body.” He also took a cup of wine; after giving thanks to God, He gave it to His disciples saying, “This is My blood . . . of the [new] covenant.”
Matthew and Mark say Jesus spoke of the “blood of the covenant.” Moses used those words when he ratified Israel’s covenant with God, sprinkling the people with animal blood (see Exodus 24:4-8).
This probably refers to Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would make a “new covenant” with Israel. Unlike the covenant He made when He led them out of Egypt, by this new covenant He would “write” His law upon their hearts, not in tablets of stone (see Jeremiah 31:31-33; 2 Corinthians 3:3).
Jesus, in all three of these Gospel accounts, stresses a sacrificial meaning for His death. He says His blood is “poured out for many.” In Matthew, He offers himself “for the forgiveness of sins.”
All three add a note of urgent expectation – Jesus vows that He won’t drink “from the fruit of the vine” until “the Kingdom of God” comes.
Are you convinced? Do you see how the Scriptures themselves point to the Eucharist as the New Covenant? This makes sense since the printing press wouldn’t be invented until 1,500 years later. The Mass was the only way illiterate Christians (the majority of people of the time) could encounter Jesus. Why would God condemn billions of Christians who did not know how to read and/or were not wealthy enough to own their own copy of the Bible? From this perspective, to say “Bible alone” would be elitist, wouldn’t it? In this lesson, I’m learning that Jesus Himself spoke of the Lord’s Supper in sacrificial terms. The New Covenant is Jesus Himself, whose Body and Blood can only be found during a Catholic Mass.
This is Part 3 to the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The other parts can be found here: Part 1 – How is the Mass Based on the Bible? and Part 2 – Why is the Mass Biblical Worship? Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. This lesson points out how when St. Paul was correcting the Corinthians, he was explaining to them how to do the Mass correctly.
The Mass is also biblical worship in a more obvious sense.
This is the worship Jesus commanded at His Last Supper.
When he wrote to the Corinthians – to correct abuses in the way they were celebrating the Eucharist – Paul reminded them of the night the Lord was handed over (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Paul described Jesus taking bread, giving thanks, breaking it, and saying, “This is My body” and in the same way taking wine and saying “this cup is the new covenant in My blood.” He recalled Jesus telling the Apostles: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Though Paul was not there at the Last Supper, he tells them he received this teaching from the churches founded by the Apostles; they, in turn, received this teaching directly from the Lord: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you”
The Greek words Paul uses – translated as “received” and “handed on” – are technical terms the rabbis of his day used to describe the keeping and teaching of sacred traditions.
Paul uses these same words when he talks about his teaching on Christ’s death and Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:2-3).
These two sacred traditions – the truth about Christ’s death and Resurrection and the truth about the Eucharist, the memorial of His death – were received from the Lord and and handed on by the Apostles.
These traditions were inseparable and crucial to the message of salvation they preached.
Through Christ’s death and Resurrection, Paul said, “we are being saved.” In the Eucharist, that saving event is “remembered” in a way that communicates that salvation to us: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,” Paul said, “you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes” (see 1 Corinthians 11:26).
Interestingly, the very next few verses (1 Cor 11:27-29) Paul tells the Corinthians that no one should consume the Eucharist unworthily (i.e. in mortal sin) or else he will be drinking his own judgment. I imagine St. Paul was trying to correct Christians even then who did not take the Eucharist seriously, who believed the bread and wine were just symbols and not really Jesus Christ. How can “bread and wine” judge you unless they were really God you’re putting in your body?
This is Part 2 to the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The first part can be found here. Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. The lesson explains why the worship of the Catholic Mass is biblical worship.
In God’s plan of salvation, the Bible and the Mass are given for our salvation – to enable us to penetrate the mystery of God’s plan, and to unite our lives to His.
The salvation and new life that Scripture proclaims, is “actualized” – made real in our lives – in the Mass.
As Jesus said: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (see John 6:53-54).
That’s why the worship of the Mass is biblical worship. The Bible gives the Mass its “efficacy” – its power to deliver what it promises, its power to bring us into communion with the true and living presence of Jesus.
Our worship can be life-transforming because the biblical Word we hear is “not a human word but . . . truly is the Word of God” (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Ordinary human language, no matter how beautiful or persuasive, could never communicate God’s grace. It can’t make us holy or bring us to “share in the divine nature” (see 2 Peter 1:4).
Only the sacred speech of God can perform the divine action of transforming bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord. Only the sacred speech of God can bring us into communion with the living God.
In God’s plan of salvation, the Bible leads us to the Liturgy. In the Liturgy, the written text of sacred Scripture becomes the living Word.
The Bible’s meaning and purpose is fulfilled in the Mass – the words of Scripture become “spirit and life . . . the words of eternal life” (see John 6:63,68).
I just love the explanation provided above. This is why the Catholic Mass is so special — it is the only Christian service that actually gives you the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Word of God is a Person, and in the Mass, we literally consume the Word Made Flesh. We share in the Divine Nature because we take Jesus into our own bodies, where He is integrated into our flesh and soul. Dear Lord, I love you! Help me grow in fervor for Your Body & Blood!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts as we go through this Bible study together from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The first lesson is entitled, “A Biblical Introduction to the Mass.” You can find the complete Lesson here. Part 1 of the lesson focuses on the biblical way Catholics worship at Mass.
The Mass begins where the Bible leaves off. In God’s plan of salvation, the Bible and the Mass were made for each other.
That’s probably news to you. In fact, if you’re like a lot of people, including many Catholics, you probably haven’t given much thought to the relationship between the Bible and the Mass.
When you’re done with this course, you’ll have a much different perspective – and hopefully a far greater love and appreciation for the deep mystery of faith we enter into in each Mass.
Every Mass begins the same way. We make the Sign of the Cross and say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We’ll get to why we do that later.
This is interesting. I did not know that the Sign of the Cross is referenced in Revelation 7:3.
The words we pray as we make this sign come straight from the lips of Jesus. Indeed, they’re among the last words He spoke to His Apostles (see Matthew 28:19).
Next in the Mass, the priest greets us. Again he speaks, and we respond, with words from the Bible. We say: “The Lord be with you” (see 2 Timothy 4:22).
In Scripture these words are a pledge of divine presence, protection and help (see Exodus 3:12; Luke 1:28). The priest might opt to use a different greeting, such as “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” but that greeting too will be drawn from Scripture (see 2 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 1:2).
Amazing! I didn’t know that even the priest’s greeting is taken from the Bible.
The Mass continues this way – as a “dialogue” between the faithful and God, mediated by the priest. What’s striking – and it’s something we rarely recognize – is that we carry on this conversation almost entirely in the language of the Bible. [Emphasis mine. – KfG]
When we glorify God, we use the song the angels sang that first Christmas night (see Luke 2:14).
Even the Creed and the Eucharistic prayers are composed of biblical words and phrases.
As we prepare to kneel before the altar, we sing another angelic hymn from the Bible – “Holy, holy, holy . . . ” (see Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). We join that to the triumphant Psalm sung by those who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes . . . ” (see Mark 11:9-10)
At the heart of the Mass, we hear Jesus’ words from the Last Supper (see Mark 14:22-24).
And before receiving Him in communion, we confess our unworthiness – in words once used by a Roman soldier seeking Jesus’ help (see Luke 7:7).
What we say and hear in the Mass comes to us from the Bible. And what we “do” in the Mass, we do because it was done in the Bible.
We gather around an altar (see Genesis 12:7; Exodus 24:4; 2 Samuel 24:25; Revelation 16:7), with incense (see Jeremiah 41:5; Revelation 8:4), served by priests (see Exodus 28:3-4; Revelation 20:6). We offer thanks with bread and wine (see Genesis 14:18; Matthew 26:26-28).
From the first Sign of the Cross to the last “Amen” (see Nehemiah 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:20), the Mass is an aural and sensual tapestry woven with words and actions, even accessories drawn from the Bible.
We address God in words that He himself has given us through the inspired writers of sacred Scripture. And He in turn comes to us – instructing, exhorting and sanctifying us – again through the living Word of the inspired Scriptures.
I remember reading Dr. Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper” and then having a greater appreciation of the Mass. These lessons, if you did not already know, are also from Dr. Hahn and his team at St. Paul Center. I really like this first part of Lesson 1 because it shows all the Scripture references to the different parts of the Mass. A Catholic attending one Mass is exposed to more Scripture than a whole month’s worth of Protestant Sunday sermons!
St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology has great online Bible study courses for free. While I can go through them alone, I think it would be more profitable if I can go through the lessons with you. The first series will be “The Lamb’s Supper: The Bible and the Mass.” This is the course description from the page:
In this course we explore the intimate and inseparable relationship between the Bible and the Mass. Following an overview of the Eucharist in the New Testament, we look at the deep roots of the Mass in the biblical history of sacrifice – a history that culminates with the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist.
Besides the Old and New Testament readings we hear each Sunday, what does the Bible have to do with the Mass? Everything. In fact, one could argue that without the Bible there would be no Mass, and without the Mass there would be no Bible.
The Bible was made for the Liturgy and the Liturgy is where the Bible was meant to be proclaimed, expounded, interpreted and “heard.” That’s why, from the Sign of the Cross and the priest’s greeting: “The Lord be with you,” the Mass is one long biblical prayer – a tapestry woven from a fabric of biblical passages, phrases and allusions. This is no accident. In the Mass, the story of salvation told in the Bible continues – is made real and present – in our lives.
We’ll study how the great events of salvation history are re-read and re-lived in the “today” of the Church’s Liturgy of the Word. Using the Book of Revelation, we’ll see how, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are lifted up to a real participation with the angels and saints in the heavenly liturgy.
Finally, we ‘ll look at how in the Mass we renew our covenant with God – the new covenant made in the blood of Jesus which makes us children of God and heirs of the divine promises found in the Bible.
My idea is to break down each of the lessons into daily doses that will be posted both here on this blog as well as on our Facebook Page. Share your thoughts either on Facebook or on the blog’s comment section. Let the Holy Spirit guide us to more knowledge of His Holy Church!
The first lesson will start tomorrow with the following image:
I love this last paragraph from Father Ron Rolheiser’s reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel (The Epiphany of Our Lord):
To bless another person is to give away some of one’s own life so that the other might be more resourced for his or her journey. Good parents do that for their children. Good teachers do that for their students, good mentors do that for their protégés, good pastors do that for their parishioners, good politicians do that for their countries, and good elders do that for the young. They give away some of their own lives to resource the other. The wise men did that for Jesus.
How do we react when a young star’s rising begins to eclipse our own light?
If you have the time, I highly recommend reading the whole article.
Have you ever wondered what ever happened to the Three Wise Men? According to Fr. Rolheiser, while there are myths, the fact that there is no real historical proof is part of their gift. Jesus was the Star. So the three kings, who were probably stars in their own right, were able to exit the stage:
The wise men follow the star, find the new king, and, upon seeing him, place their gifts at his feet. What happens to them afterwards? We have all kinds of apocryphal stories about their journey back home, but these, while interesting, are not helpful. We do not know what happened to them afterwards and that is exactly the point. Their slipping away into anonymity is a crucial part of their gift. The idea is that they now disappear because they can now disappear. They have placed their gifts at the feet of the young king and can now leave everything safely in his hands. His star has eclipsed theirs. Far from fighting for their former place, they now happily cede it to him. Like old Simeon, they can happily exit the stage singing: Now, Lord, you can dismiss your servants! We can die! We’re in safe hands!
You should read his bio here, and while I was there myself, I picked up this wonderful passage from one of his old columns:
All of us live our lives in exile. We live in our separate riddles, partially separated from God, each other, and even from ourselves. We experience some love, some community, some peace, but never these in their fullness. Our senses, egocentricity, and human nature place a veil between us and full love, full community, and full peace. We live, truly, as in a riddle: The God who is omnipresent cannot be sensed; others, who are as real as ourselves, are always partially distanced and unreal; and we are, in the end, fundamentally a mystery even to ourselves.
Isn’t that beautiful? He articulated what I felt while going home on the subway this past Tuesday.
God bless Father Rolheiser. May his wisdom set other souls on fire.