Today’s find: Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior

Then what?

It’s an intriguing question, one I’d never really applied to the three wise men before.

We hear their story at Mass this weekend – the mysterious visitors from ‘the East’ who travel great distances to pay homage to the newborn king, the Christ, at Bethlehem.

What we don’t hear, as one of my companions pointed out during our scripture study this morning, is much about their lives after the fact.

Did this encounter with Christ make any lasting difference in their lives? We hear nothing more about them in Matthew’s gospel, or anywhere else in scripture.

Tradition gives us their names: Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior. (At least that’s how we know them in the Western tradition; Eastern rites give them other names.)

But that’s pretty much it: After meeting the Christ child, we are told that they go home ‘by another way.’

It’s a wonderful phrase, isn’t it? And full of meaning – for it suggests that they have indeed been changed by the encounter. The wise men came looking for a king – and found one in Herod, a king who held little appeal once they’d met Christ.

But what happens after they make their way home?

It remains a mystery to us. And that’s perhaps as it should be.

Wisdom comes to us, and beckons us to join Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior in entering into the divine mystery.

Wisdom teaches us, too, that we don’t always get to know the end of the story.

'We saw His star at its rising...'

‘We saw His star at its rising…’

 

 

 

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.

 

IHS

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4 thoughts on “Today’s find: Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior

  1. Mark Morrell

    Christus benedicat mansionem

    Tradition conveyed names to correspond with
    C B M

  2. Mike Albers

    John,

    According to a late medieval legend, the wise men were so moved by the sight of the Christ-child that they went to India and devoted themselves to good works and prayer. There St. Thomas encountered them on his way to evangelize the east and consecrated them as archbishops, which is why they are sometimes depicted wearing mitres.

    After leading exemplary lives and converting many the kings die one by one. On one version of the tradition, their bodies came to rest in the same sarcophagus, in another they died in different regions of the east, where their bodies were eventually discovered by Empress Helena and brought to Constantinople. The marble coffin was later moved to Milan at the request of Eustorgus, a noble Greek and eloquent preacher who succeeded St. Ambrose as bishop of that city. In 1164, after Frederick Barbarrosa had captured Milan, their remains were transported to Cologne Cathedral where their golden shrine may still be seen.

    Traditions are entertaining . . . for me, the beauty of their story is in the gifts that they brought to the child and they symbolic meaning of those gifts.

    Mike Albers

    • Thanks, Mike. I love that notion of St. Thomas running into them, a bit later on in life — and that the light of Christ was still evident in each of them!

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