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p. 82



   SOME say that that star appeared to the Magi simultaneously with the birth of our Lord. As for Herod's commanding that all children from two years old and downwards should be slain, it is not as if they required all that length of time for their journey, but they had some accidental delay either in their own country or on the road. Again, Herod did not command that the children should be slain immediately after his having met the Magi, but much time passed in the interval, because he was waiting to hear from them.

   The holy Mâr John Chrysostom, in his exposition of Matthew, says, p. 83 'The star appeared a long time before1, for their journey was accomplished with great delay that they might come to the end of it on the day of our Lord's birth. It was meet that He should be worshipped in swaddling bands, that the greatness of the wonder might be recognised; therefore the star appeared to them a long time before. For if the star had appeared to them in the east when He was born in Palestine, they would not have been able to see Him in swaddling bands. Marvel not, if Herod slew the children from two years and downwards, for wrath and fear urged him to increased watchfulness; therefore he added more time than was needful, that no one should be able to escape.'

   As touching the nature of that star, whether it was a star in its nature, or in appearance only, it is right to know that it was not of the other stars, but a secret power which appeared like a star; for all the other stars that are in the firmament, and the sun and moon, perform their course from east to west. This one, however, made its course from north to south, for Palestine lies thus, over against Persia. This star was not seen by them at night only, but also during the day, and at noon; and it was seen at the time when the sun is particularly strong, because it was not one of the stars. Now the moon is stronger in its light than all the stars, but it is immediately quenched and its light dissipated by one small ray of the sun. But this star overcame even the beams of the sun by the intensity of its light. Sometimes it p. 84 appeared, and sometimes it was hidden entirely. It guided the Magi as far as Palestine. When they drew near to Jerusalem, it was hidden; and when they went forth from Herod, and began to journey along the road, it appeared and shewed itself. This was not an ordinary movement of the stars, but a rational power. Moreover, it had no fixed path, but when the Magi travelled, it travelled on also, and when they halted, it also halted; like the pillar of cloud which stopped and went forward when it was convenient for the camp of Israel. The star did not remain always up in the height of heaven, but sometimes it came down and sometimes it mounted up; and it also stood over the head of the Child, as the Evangelist tells us.



p. 82

2 In the Oxford MS. chap. xlii.

p. 83

1 Καὶ γὰρ πρὸ πολλου̑ χρόνου δοκει̑ μοι ὁ ἀδτὴρ φανη̑ται {Greek: Kaì gàr prò pollou xrónou dokei moi o aothr fanhtai}. See Migne's edit., vol. vii, col. 76. 'Two years before Christ was born, a star appeared to the Magi; they saw a star in the firmament of heaven which shone with a light greater than that of any other star. Within it was a maiden carrying a child with a crown upon his head.' Brit. Mus. Add. 25,875, fol. 40 a, col. 1. See Bezold, Die Schatzhöhle, p. 56. Another legend says that the star was in the shape of an eagle having within it the form of a young child, and above him the sign of the cross. Sandys, Christmas Carols, London, 1833, p. lxxxiii foll.