In the Gospel According to Matthew we read, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
Everything we know about these "wise men" is related in the second chapter of this book, they were from the east, they inquired of Herod, "Where is this king born?" They worshiped the Christ child and presented gifts. In defiance of Herod's directive, they returned to their own land without returning to Herod. That's it. That is what we know.
Yet the imagination of mankind is not satisfied, so a narrative is created over time; names are assigned to the wise men, the number of them being established at three, which, again, we are not told in Matthew's account. The place of their origin is chosen through speculation-- what else is there to go on? And so three hundred or so years after the event, Helena of Constantinople, mother of the emperor Constantine set out on a quest for the remains of these magi, as they are often called.
Helena reportedly located the very bones she sought, supposedly in Persia. She had them shipped home to Constantinople. Through a series of events which you may easily find and read about on the internet, these relics were transferred first to Milan then to Köln where they abide to this day in the world's largest reliquary just behind the altar in the cathedral. These three caskets are bound together in perpetuity by ornate gilding and is an important tourist attraction.
Helena has been accorded sainthood.*
Whatever her motives and the likelihood of success in Helena's venture, we are better served by focusing on the motives and actions of the wise men, whatever their number. They traveled far, they presented their best, and they worshiped the Christ. Next Saturday is Epiphany, the day we traditionally observe in honor of the visit of the magi to Bethlehem.
No matter the length of our journey or the vicissitudes of life, we, too, must present our best and fall before the Christ in worship and adoration.
The Magi? Wherever the dust of their bones, may their souls rest in eternal peace.
*This is the same Helena who unearthed the true cross and carted some splinters home with her.