Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Star of Bethlehem - The Symbol of the Epiphany

The Star of Bethlehem The next great symbol of Epiphany, is the glorious Star of Bethlehem. There are so many theories now as to what, exactly, this "Star of Wonder" was. Some believe it was a comet or a supernova. Some believe it was actually a conjunction of planets. 2 The Fathers, like St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 50 - c.100), though, believed it was completely miraculous, like the pillar of fire of
Numbers 13:21:

"And the Lord went before them to shew the way by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire: that he might be the guide of their journey at both times."

St. Ignatius wrote to the Ephesians:

"A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else in the heavens."

St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) (and St. Thomas Aquinas after him), also believed it was a miraculous event. He wrote in his Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew:

"For if ye can learn what the star was, and of what kind, and whether it were one of the common stars, or new and unlike the rest, and whether it was a star by nature or a star in appearance only, we shall easily know the other things also. Whence then will these points be manifest? From the very things that are written. Thus, that this star was not of the common sort, or rather not a star at all, as it seems at least to me, but some invisible power transformed into this appearance, is in the first place evident from its very course. For there is not, there is not any star that moves by this way, but whether it be the sun you mention, or the moon, or all the other stars, we see them going from east to west; but this was wafted from north to south; for so is Palestine situated with respect to Persia."

The apocryphal Protoevangelium of St. James (ca. A.D. 125) has the Magi saying to Herod:

"We have seen a star of great size shining among these stars, and obscuring their light, so that the stars did not appear; and we thus knew that a king has been born to Israel, and we have come to worship him."

Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461) described it like this in his thirty-first sermon:

"To three wise men, therefore, appeared a star of new splendour in the region of the East, which, being brighter and fairer than the other stars, might easily attract the eyes and minds of those that looked on it, so that at once that might be observed not to be meaningless, which had so unusual an appearance."

But perhaps St. Ephraem (a.k.a. Ephraim), d. 373, describes it best in his "Hymns for Epiphany":

"In the Height and the Depth the Son had two heralds. The star of light proclaimed Him from above; John likewise preached Him from beneath: two heralds, the earthly and the heavenly. The star of light, contrary to nature, shone forth of a sudden; less than the sun yet greater than the sun. Less was it than he in manifest light; and greater than he in secret might because of its mystery."

Its exact nature aside, we're not sure about precisely when it appeared or for how long. Did it appear at the Annunciation, giving the magi more than nine months to make their way to Bethlehem? Did it appear on Christmas night? Some time in between? No one knows for certain, but whatever it was, this great sign was predicted by the wicked Balaam, as recorded in the Books of Moses:

Numbers 24:15-19
"Therefore taking up his parable, again he said: Balaam the son of Beor hath said: The man whose eye is stopped up, hath said: The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the Highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty, who falling hath his eyes opened: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth. And he shall possess Idumea: the inheritance of Seir shall come to their enemies, but Israel shall do manfully. Out of Jacob shall he come that shall rule, and shall destroy the remains of the city."

-- and the Magi knew it.

IDEAS FOR CELEBRATING WITH STARS

Show natural symbols of the Star to your children inside a cross-sectioned apple, in poinsettias, on one side of a sand dollar, in the flower called "Star-of-Bethlehem" (Ornithogalum umbellatum), etc.

Folded Origami Nature Wreath
While these are technically wreaths, I think they look very similar to a giant star and would be the perfect craft for the Epiphany.  You will find the instructions for making them, here.
Another flower associated with the Star of Bethlehem is the Ox-Eye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), also called "Mary's Star." Legend says that after the Magi followed the Star of Bethlehem to the right town, they didn't know where exactly to go. St. Melchior looked down and saw the Ox-Eye Daisy, noticed its resemblance to the Star they'd been following, so plucked it up. When he did, the door to the place of Christ's nativity opened, showing the Magi where the King of Kings lay. *Photo from The Hidden Way

If you prefer a true five point star, these instructions will show you how.  A string of them hanging across a window would be pretty. And here is another take.  These might be fun to make with some of your leftover wrapping paper.

Christmas Scented Salt Dough Ornaments
Another fun craft idea are these Christmas scented salt dough ornaments. You'll find the instructions for them, here. *Photo from Rocky Hedge Farm

Other Ideas
Here are some other ideas for fun crafts to make featuring stars.

- Star of Bethlehem Clothes Pin Ornament 
(featured at top) *Photo from Equipping Godly Women
- Wrapped Yarn Stars
- Twig Stars 
- Crocheted Stars
- Evergeen Stars - I LOVE these, definitely putting them on my list of things to make next year!
- Star of Bethlehem Craft
- Apple Star Ornaments - using dried apples.
- Wool Felt Ornaments - these are actually part of a garland, but you could easily make them as individual stars. But even a garland draped across a window would be lovely for the Epiphany.
- Orange Peel Star Garland - I made one of these last year and just love the look of it!
- Orange Rind Votives - I've made these before as well and just loved the look of them. They do mold quickly though, but if you rub the inside with a little petroleum jelly they last longer.

Well, hopefully one of these ideas has sparked your interest. I've tried to include ideas that range from simple to perhaps a little more involved.  If you're like me, you're probably going to tuck a few away for next year!

~ Enjoy!

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