The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1440 - 1460) by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Fra Angelico — The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1440 – 1460)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

During these final weeks of Advent, we thought that Sacred Scripture, paired with art from Renaissance painter and Dominican friar Fra Angelico, would be a unique way to meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation. This beautiful painting shows the Three Wise Men adoring the baby Jesus, followed by an enormous crowd of people eager to catch a glimpse of the Christ Child.

The Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2: 1-12)

Fra Angelico — The Adoration of the Mag (Detail) (c. 1440 - 1460) National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Fra Angelico — The Adoration of the Mag (Detail) (c. 1440 – 1460)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’

Fra Angelico — The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1440 - 1460) National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Fra Angelico — The Adoration of the Magi (Detail) (c. 1440 – 1460)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.