How many Christians believe that these are the actual bones of the wise men?

Published: 12.09.2007 Wise men's bones part of Catholic relics exhibit By Stephanie Innes ARIZONA DAILY STAR The history Epiphany, a Christian holiday celebrated Jan. 6, commemorates the day the Magi visited the newborn Jesus. In Latin-American tradition, the day is known as Three Kings Day. The... show more Published: 12.09.2007

Wise men's bones part of Catholic relics exhibit
By Stephanie Innes
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
The history
Epiphany, a Christian holiday celebrated Jan. 6, commemorates the day the Magi visited the newborn Jesus. In Latin-American tradition, the day is known as Three Kings Day.
The Bible doesn't say how many Magi followed the star until they found Jesus, but through the years the number three has been adopted in Christian tradition because they brought three gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh. The story says the Magi — or wise men — came from the East and followed the star in search of the newborn king.
The three men are believed to have been astrologers, and their submission to Jesus often is viewed as the submission of magical arts and superstition to the Lord. Because the Magi apparently arrived after Christ was born, the date of Jan. 6 was adopted in about the fifth century. Various cultures adopted numerous Epiphany traditions through the years.
One that's popular in Europe includes blessing homes by writing the year, with the symbols C + M + B, in chalk above the front door of homes, a practice sometimes called smudging. Next year, that symbolism would read: 20 C + M + B 08.
Some believe the letters stand for the names of the three Magi later adopted by tradition: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Others say they symbolize the Latin phrase "May Christ bless this house" — Christus mansionem benedicat.
If you go
The "Relics of the Three Wise Men" exhibit will be at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 8650 N. Shannon Road, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. today; and at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave., 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Tiny fragments of bone believed to be remains of the three wise men who visited the newborn Jesus will be on display in Tucson for two days this week.
The Catholic relics tour, titled "Come Let Us Adore Him," will be at the Northwest Side's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church today, and at Downtown's St. Augustine Cathedral on Tuesday.
"This is the closest I'm going to get to God in my physical lifetime," said Arizona Knights of Columbus spokesman John Garcia. "And since this is a time of Christmas, it puts us closer in touch with the birth of Christ."
The Arizona Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's group, and the Apostolate for Holy Relics, a non-profit organization, are co-sponsors.
The exhibit is also expected to feature relics from the manger, fabric from the Virgin Mary's veil and Joseph's coat, and a bone fragment from St. Elizabeth, who was the Virgin Mary's ninth cousin.
"It's a tangible thread between heaven and Earth," said Thomas Serafin, a lay Catholic who is president of the Apostolate for Holy Relics.
"It allows us to gather as Christians and sometimes as non-Christians, put aside the man-made differences, give thanks, and ask for intercession for our lives and our families," he said.
The relics, which come from a collection in the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) in Cologne, Germany, were on display in Phoenix Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 and will return to Phoenix and Gilbert after the Tucson exhibit. Arizona is the first stop on the relics' international tour. The next stop is Guam.
Though the authenticity of the relics hasn't been scientifically proven, Garcia, the Arizona Knights of Columbus spokesman, said they have a long history of being venerated.
"Remember that this was a time when they needed something physical to believe with. It was a time of coming out of superstition," he said.
The Apostolate for Holy Relics says Emperor Flavius Zeno brought the Magi relics from Persia to Constantinople in the fifth century. Believers say the relics later appeared in the Basilica of St. Eustorgius in Milan, and then were taken to Cologne in 1162 after Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany invaded Italy.
The display in Cologne is called the Sarcophagus of the Magi. The exterior is seven feet of gilded silver and jewels, and inside are three golden-crowned skulls believed to belong to the Magi, or wise men.
"If my faith is what it is, it allows me to believe these articles really do go back to the point and time when they touched the Lord and Savior," said Tucsonan Antonio Otero, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and marshal for the Arizona Knights of Columbus. "That's why I'm so excited — it's something tangible that I can see with my eyes, and my Lord's eyes gazed at them as well."
Otero said he's not sure what turnout to expect. It is a busy time of year and it's difficult to gauge interest in relics, he said.
But he added that the relics are coming during the season of Advent, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an important time of year to reflect on the Christmas season.
Serafin's organization has sponsored similar relic tours in Tucson.
In October 2003, about 2,000 Tucsonans saw the Tilma of Tepeyac relic, a half-inch square of cloth that Catholics believe was part of a tilma — an Aztec word meaning a poncho-like cloak — worn by St. Juan Diego in 1531 when the humble Aztec peasant spoke to the Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill outside Mexico City.
In February 2005, at least 1,200 Tucsonans saw the Relics of the Passion, said to be from Jesus Christ's last hours.
"We do need tangible things to make our minds work," Serafin said. "Scientific testing isn't as important as the meaning in the hearts of the people who visit the relics."
The history
Epiphany, a Christian holiday celebrated Jan. 6, commemorates the day the Magi visited the newborn Jesus. In Latin-American tradition, the day is known as Three Kings Day.
The Bible doesn't say how many Magi followed the star until they found Jesus, but through the years the number three has been adopted in Christian tradition because they brought three gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh. The story says the Magi — or wise men — came from the East and followed the star in search of the newborn king.
The three men are believed to have been astrologers, and their submission to Jesus often is viewed as the submission of magical arts and superstition to the Lord. Because the Magi apparently arrived after Christ was born, the date of Jan. 6 was adopted in about the fifth century. Various cultures adopted numerous Epiphany traditions through the years.
One that's popular in Europe includes blessing homes by writing the year, with the symbols C + M + B, in chalk above the front door of homes, a practice sometimes called smudging. Next year, that symbolism would read: 20 C + M + B 08.
Some believe the letters stand for the names of the three Magi later adopted by tradition: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Others say they symbolize the Latin phrase "May Christ bless this house" — Christus mansionem benedicat.
If you go
The "Relics of the Three Wise Men" exhibit will be at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 8650 N. Shannon Road, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. today; and at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave., 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
● Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or sinnes@azstarnet.com.
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