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Vatican astronomer reflects on star of Bethlehem

January 06, 2016

In a front-page reflection published by L’Osservatore Romano on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, the director of the Vatican Observatory discussed the star of Bethlehem and the journey of the Magi.

“The feast of Epiphany is special to us astronomers,” wrote Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ. “Of all the visitors who came to see the newborn Savior, only shepherds and astronomers are specifically mentioned by St. Matthew. Of course, this fame comes with a cost. Epiphany is also the season when we astronomers are besieged with requests to ‘explain’ the Star of Bethlehem.”

After discussing Johannes Kepler’s identification of the star with a conjunction of planets, Brother Consolmagno said that “my experience as a scientist makes me approach the Magi story with a completely different set of unanswerable questions … The story of the Magi inspires us to look at our own journey. What are we looking for? Why do we look? How do we know it when we find it? And are we brave enough to return home with it, once we have found it?”


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