jeudi 5 février 2015

Palestine / Israel: Like the Magi kings in Galilee!

The Golden Legend!

             At the end of the thirteenth century, Jacques de Voragine *, archbishop of Genoa, brings together all the scattered traditions about the Magi in a book called "The Golden Legend". There extensively addresses the three gifts given (gold, frankincense was used since the earliest times in temples and churches, and myrrh, an aromatic gum used among others to embalm the dead), and it gives them symbolic meaning.

Who were the three Magi !

"The first was called the Magi Melchior was a white-haired old man with a long beard. He offered gold to the Lord as to his king, gold signifying the Kingship of Christ. The second, named Gaspard young beardless, colored red, offered Jesus in incense, the tribute to his divinity the third, a black face, wearing a full beard, was called Balthazar. myrrh that was in his hands reminded that the Son had to die".

The first mystery, were they only three?

The Gospels do not indicate the number of magi. Traditions diverge, evoking all the numbers between two and twelve. Ultimately, it is the figure of three that were retained. For two reasons: firstly because the Gospel of St. Matthew evoked three gifts given to the Child God, secondly because the relics of the Magi, kept first at St. Eustorge Milan and Cologne were those of three bodies. The text of the Gospel does not mention the number of mages but lists three gifts brought by them (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

Theological interpretation!

A traditional theological interpretation, they relate to three aspects of Jesus, who is the son of God (gold which is most precious to God), which is Priest (incense used for worship, speak with God this as are all children of God), but is also truly man, and therefore linked to the love of life on earth (myrrh was used to embalm the dead, wash the stains implied life in the flesh, as an eternal life balm).
The Magi coming to worship Christ can symbolize the recognition of Christianity as a religion consistent with the primordial tradition (originally of all religions): the Magi from the East represent the three powers: the royal power (gold) priestly power (incense) and spiritual power (myrrh). These three powers correspond to the three worlds represented by the three crowns on the tiara of St. Peter. Mages worshiping Christ means that all three powers recognize the orthodoxy of Christianity from the primordial tradition.

Would they have done today?

They traveled from the East to pay homage to the infant King, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. A feat that would be hard to do these days. Times have never been hard for the Magi. The price of gold soared on commodity markets, myrrh crops were affected by drought - and that in addition, the incense is likely to disappear.
Incense resin can sell for up to 45 euros per kilo, according to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA, based in Syria). Myrrh is about twice as expensive, but prices are unstable - which also applies to the present third of the Magi. Four days before Christmas, an ounce of gold costs 1.233.57 euros on the international market - almost 20% more than last year.
But for biblical shoppers is what this week fell the most catastrophic news. Dutch ecologists studying the Boswellia populations in Ethiopia warned that the number of trees that provide incense could halve in fifteen years, if not totally disappear if we do not fight against many ills as burning, overgrazing and insects.

The extinction of Boswellia would end the trade millennia of this aromatic resin, which had its heyday during the Roman Empire, and today still feeds the sectors of perfumery and aromatherapy. The big perfume companies continue to use it as Body Shop and Ren, who sells a "Night Revitalizing Cream incense" to 38.30 euros a bottle.
Harvest myrrh, another fragrant resin which also comes from a desert tree, also suffered from the effects of long-term drought. As for the incense, it produces 2,000 tons per year. For two years, the researchers collected data on the populations and seed production for several species of Boswellia. Their study, thirteen plots of two hectares in Ethiopia and published in The British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, shows that these trees are in rapid decline.          However, the fault is not likely to be borne by the cosmetics industry, but rather to cattle and insects, according to the study.
"It is unlikely that the incense extraction is the main cause of population decline, which is likely related to burning, overgrazing and attacks longhorn commented Dr Frans Bongers of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. the frequency of burning and grazing intensity in the area that we studied have increased in recent decades as a result of the tremendous development of livestock, which would explain why the shoots do not reach the stage of shrub. [...] Our models show that within fifty years, populations of Boswellia will be decimated, meaning that incense is doomed. "
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- Jacques deVoragine, The Golden Legend (Legenda Aurea, about 1261 to 1266), trans. ed. Alain Boureau, Gallimard, coll. "The Pleiades", 2004

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