Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: Italian English


Good morning,

I came across your site by chance. I was looking for some answers that now I’m going to present to you , thanking you in advance for what you are doing, especially in present times when the faith is being lost.

At my nephew’s catechism the Holy Scriptures were somehow twisted. They asked the parents of the children who will take their first Communion this year a few questions.

One of these was: “How many were the Magi who arrived in Bethlehem ? Who were they: Magi or Kings?” All of them replied that they were astrologers and magicians. The catechist told them they were wrong. The Magi were kings and there were so many of them, so she suggested that it would be more appropriate to put many statuettes of Magi in the crib, maybe cutting their crown.

So my question is: who were the Magi?

Coming then to the topic of the Via Crucis, she explained that Jesus did not carry the Cross, that He never fell down, that everything was a farce to make people understand that He carried the sins of the world upon Himself.

What is the truth – or the alleged one?

Waiting for your explanation, I know it is mainly  about hypotheses, because we don’t know if everything that is written is true, but we don’t even know the opposite. It is a matter of faith, and I don’t understand why children today must be kept doubtful about that.  Because I taught and explained to my 10 years old grandson what the Church once taught me,  now he is getting confused.

I greet and thank you for all the explanations you want to give, even to people who are not familiar with this subject.

 The priest’s answer

Dear friend,

1. I report what the founder of the Biblical School of Jerusalem, father M-J Lagrange,  wrote about the Magi. His voice is definitely  authoritative.

Here are his precise words: “Who were these Magi? The ancients, and especially the Westerners, considered them as priests of the Persian religion. This is the official sense of the word “Magi” but this expression was also used to designate astronomers as well as astrologers at times, because in the East, except for the great school of astronomy of Alexandria, nobody paid attention to the stars and planets above, if not to scrutinize the fate of children born under this or that influence. The bad reputation enjoyed by astrologers may have led the Church fathers to see the Magi cited in the Gospel as Persian priests. Persia is not east to Palestine though, and the fathers – St. Justin (2nd century), and St. Epiphanius (4th century) – who were from the Holy land, assumed that the Magi came from the East, that is from Arabia, the country beyond the Jordan in reasons of  the kind of gifts they brought, as proper of those lands. These same gifts made Tertullian believe they were kings, because the LXXI Psalm represents the kings of the Arabs and of Sheba in the act of bringing gifts to the Messiah. Popular tradition adds a splendid crew and names them Melchior, Gaspar and Baldasare as representatives of the Semites – white  and black etnies respectively.

We may imagine them as some serious men, occupied in studying the sky, eager to read the future and especially concerned about the coming of a great King, who was expected  by the Jews at that time. In that time, the Jews were  very numerous in Arabia, where they made their hopes known and where perhaps the prophecy of Balaam,  a prophet of the land of Moab  – who had announced that a star would come out of Jacob and a scepter would rise from Israel -, was alive (Num 24.17). Since the days of Moses’ contemporary seer, the vague hopes of a great kingdom had been kept alive. They were also widespread throughout the ancient world. The rising of a star and the coming of a king were events that the public considered as connected, and the first was intended as a prediction of the latter. Now, the Magi had seen a new star rising up in the East, probably a comet. Everyone certainly believed that this was the harbinger of a glorious kingdom. The Magi thought of the future King of the Jews, of whom such glorious things were told by them. Assuming therefore that He was born, they came to Jerusalem in the Holy city of Judaism and, little aware of the circumstances and in particular of Herod’s ferocious jealousy, which had even manifested itself against his own children, they expressed without ambage their intention to go to pay homage to the newborn whenever the place of birth would be indicated to them. None of the inhabitants of that privileged land should have ignored it” (The Gospel of Jesus Christ, pp. 38-39).

 2. Another great biblical scholar, Giuseppe Ricciotti, writes: “Matthew does not say how many Magi there were; the late popular tradition believed them to be from a minimum of two to a maximum of a dozen, but with preference of the number three certainly suggested by the three gifts they offered: before the ninth century,  the names of these three Magi were also known: Gaspar, Melchior and Baldasarre”(Life of Jesus Christ, §. 253).

3. The Gospels say nothing about Jesus’ falls along the Via Crucis.

A popular piety spoke of three falls, which are likely, given the condition of a complete prostration of Jesus, finding Himself exhausted after the scourging.

Here is what Giuseppe Ricciotti writes about it: “§. 604. Having started from Antonia , the procession advanced slowly along the crowded streets of the jubilant city. Many of those who had formed the clamoring crowd in front of the praetorium must have returned to their homes to make preparations for the Passover meal: the Sanhedrites, no longer in need of their cries, had sent them free. However, several elders followed the procession, to be sure that everything was going well and that the final conclusion was once and for all. The jokes and sarcasms that the mob reserved for the condemned were certainly not lacking along the way, but the most exquisitely ferocious jokes were addressed to the one  to whom the contemptuous gesture of the elders was pointing in accordance with the preference of the ferocity of the common people: the Galilean Rabbi, much more than the two robbers,  was worthy of those obscene mocks.

Jesus, loaded with the cross stake, walked unsteadily. It was about noon, and from before midnight he had gone through an incessant series of physical and oral trials of incomparable violence: first, the loving and painful farewell from the Apostles in the Upper Room, then the Gethsemani, the arrest, the trial before the Sanhedrin, the ludibrium in the house of Caiaphas, the trial before Pilate, finally the terrible scourging, had taken away all  His residual strength. Under the weight of the beam he swayed, he stumbled at every step, he could collapse at any moment to never get up again. The centurion who commanded the escort was worried about this fact, which could cause the task entrusted to him either not to be completed or to suffer an enormous delay that would have been reproached. And then he resorted to the makeshift of the “requisition”, which we already know

A certain Simon of Cyrene, whom Mark likes to point out to his readers in Rome as the father of Alexander and Rufus, happened to come there by chance; he came from the countryside, where he had certainly been at work, and was directed to his house; but the centurion, given the necessity, “seized” him and ordered him to carry the stake that Jesus could no longer endure. Nothing leads us to believe that this Simon knew Jesus or was his disciple, and therefore the order received must have been anything but pleasing to the “seized one”: however, if his son Rufus  became later a distinguished person in the Christianity of Rome, and if Simon’s wife herself was reverently called  with the name of mother by Paul, we can infer that the service unwillingly paid to Jesus produced excellent effects, though in an unknown way to us” (Life of Jesus Christ, §. 604).

This is what we certainly know from the Gospels.

 4. Finally, a note on what you wrote: “we are talking about hypotheses because we don’t know if everything that is written is true”.

Dear, we know by faith that the main Author of the Sacred Scriptures, as of the Gospels, is the Holy Spirit.

We must be absolutely certain about what is reported to us, because the One whom Jesus defines as the Spirit of Truth (Jn 15:26) can never, ever lie to us.

I wish you well, I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo