The Church celebrates the feast of epiphany today. However, in countries where this feast is not a holy day of obligation, it is celebrated on the Sunday occurring between 2 and 8 January. Epiphany is one of the beautiful feasts that highlight the joys and mysteries of Christmas.
Christmas is essentially the feast of giving, a giving motivated by and graced with love: Mary donated herself to be the mother of God. God gave his Son to the world. Even animals offered the stable and the manger to the Newborn King. The choirs of angels offered praise. Shepherds gave their humble adoration. And now the wise men from the East! They brought with them gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The magi carefully selected these gifts to express the personality and mission of the Newborn Child. The gifts bespeak also of how one can support the mission of Christ on earth. Let us consider these gifts individually and attempt to understand their significances.
Frankincense, the dried resin of the Boswellia tree, is primarily used for one thing—to spread fragrance and God relishes this fragrance. For this reason, the angels in heaven offer incense to God together with the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:24). The psalmist would pray, “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Ps. 141:2). The high priest also requires incense to offer the sacred oblation to God. Incense is accordingly a sign of the presence of God, who wants to distribute the fragrance of his love everywhere. The three wise men brought the gift of incense to indicate that Jesus was God, who has come to dispel the stench of our wounded and sick world with his alluring fragrance and bring her healing. What would we offer the incarnate God today? What can we give to help him spread the fragrance of his divinity and make our world a better place?
Myrrh, the second gift, is also a resin that has been used for various medicinal purposes. Myrrh has a disinfectant effect and was used to embalm the dead. It also has a hemostatic, healing effect and has also been used to numb and relieve pain. Disinfecting, hemostatic, pain relieving—myrrh is the right gift for a doctor and healer. It is beneficial to those who care for the dead, the injured and the suffering. It is useful to those who wish to give hope and healing. The three wise men gave myrrh to Jesus, the wound healer, who “went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). Could we offer him this gift again by becoming the source of hope, healing, and consolation for those battered and broken by pain and suffering?
Gold has always been considered a precious metal and a symbol of kings. It has a very alluring aura and a high durable quality. It does not rust. The rulers of this world had always needed a lot of gold to forge crowns and adorn palaces, perhaps mimicking the heavenly city, which was made of pure gold (Rev. 21:18). Gold has always served as the sign of affluence and magnificence. When the magi gave the Newborn Child the gift of gold, they acknowledged his kingship and announced the beginning of the golden age, the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. However, the King would no longer need of material gold, but men and women, whose character would have the quality of gold, to adorn the kingdom of the new King. Can we offer him this form of gold to help him redecorate our World?