11. Why did it hide from them while they were there? To make them, through their enquiries, unsuspecting heralds of Christ who was born at that time according to the flesh. Because they presumed they would learn from the Jews where Christ was to be born according to the sacred prophecies, the divine star left them, teaching us that we should no longer seek to find out about the law and the prophets from the Jews, but rather to seek after the teaching that comes from heaven, lest we be deprived of grace and the outpouring flight from above. When they left Jerusalem, the star appeared again to their delight, and went before them to lead the way, “till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matt. 2:9), obviously worshipping with them this earthly and heavenly infant. This star first brings the magi as a birthday gift to God, born upon earth, and through them to the whole Assyrian nation, according to the saying of Isaiah: “In those days the Assyrians shall be the first nation for God, and after them the Egyptians, and Israel shall be the third” (cf Isa. 19:23-24), as is now seen coming to pass. For the veneration by the magi was immediately followed by the flight into Egypt (Matt. 2:13), during which He delivered the Egyptians from idols (cf Isa. 19:1), and after His return from there, a nation worthy of God’s possession was chosen from among Israel. — St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior.
I find it very interesting how St. Gregory sees the three Magi in a hypostatic way. By this I mean that as Assyrians, they bring with them the whole Assyrian nation. Though they come as individuals, they share what makes them Assyrian with the rest of that nation — just as Christ is one of the distinct persons of the Trinity but is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This particular view of the human being — both as an individual person and as part of the whole race of man — is integral for understanding why the Orthodox Church and what it does it so vital for the world.
Please note this prayer said by the priest just prior to communion [emphasis mine]:
Lord Jesus Christ, our God, hear us from Your holy dwelling place and from the glorious throne of Your kingdom. You are enthroned on high with the Father and are also invisibly present among us. Come and sanctify us, and let Your pure Body and precious Blood be given to us by Your mighty hand and through us to all Your people. — Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostomos, Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great
This prayer only makes sense if we understand the human person in a Trinitarian manner. Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, human beings are like the Trinity — we are all distinct individuals, but we also all share our human nature. Thus, when we come before God in order to worship Him and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ we not only stand in His presence as distinct individuals but as humanity as a whole. Thus, our unity with God through our partaking of the eucharist affects the whole as well as the individual in the same way that the three Magi present not only themselves to the Christ child, but the Assyrian nation as a whole. Indeed, they also bring all Gentiles as well.
This understanding can also be seen by the pattern of prayer seen in the Orthodox services. Note how the Great Litany touches upon so many aspects of human experience:
In peace let us pray to the Lord.
For the peace of God and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
For peace in the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.
For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.
For our Archbishop (Name), the honorable presbyters, the deacons in the service of Christ, and all the clergy and laity, let us pray to the Lord.
For our country, the president, and all those in public service, let us pray to the Lord.
For this parish and city, for every city and town, and for the faithful who live in them, let us pray to the Lord.
For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and temperate seasons, let us pray to the Lord.
For travelers by land, sea, and air, for the sick, the suffering, the captives, and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and distress, let us pray to the Lord.
Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.
Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.
This mode of prayer is especially true during the Divine Liturgy. Please note how the Church brings into the presence of God people from all walks of life:
We also offer to You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and for those living in purity and holiness. And for all those in public service; permit them, Lord, to serve and govern in peace that through the faithful conduct of their duties we may live peaceful and serene lives in all piety and holiness. Remember, Lord, the city in which we live, every city and country, and the faithful who dwell in them. Remember, Lord, the travelers, the sick, the suffering, and the captives, granting them protection and salvation. Remember, Lord, those who do charitable work, who serve in Your holy churches, and who care for the poor. And send Your mercy upon us all. — From the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
From this point of view, the Orthodox Church stands at the front line of the spiritual battle that afflicts the fallen world. She fights not only for Herself, but for all of humanity and, indeed, all of creation. She fulfills her role as the Body of Christ by gathering in order to save everyone, just as Christ Himself went to the cross for all of human kind. Thus, the Divine Liturgy is not just something beautiful that we do one or more times a week for our own edification, it is vital for the salvation of the whole world. Amen.