Sunday, January 06, 2008


In many Christian traditions, today is the Feast of the Epiphany -- the day we recall the visit of The Magi a.k.a. the Three Kings a.k.a. the The Wise Men to the Infant Jesus.

The Gospel at Mass is from Matthew Chapter 2:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

The image above shows the 1825 oil on wood painting "Journey of the Magi" by the Austrian artist Leopold Kupelwieser (1796 - 1862).


cjjb said...

Where did they get the Three Wise Men from? Nothing about three men was ever mentioned. Only that they had brought three gifts. This would be a good question on a game show, people will swear up and down ("on a stack of bibles") that there were three wise men. (And apparently one of them was black, although I can't figure out where that came from either . . .)

Paul said...

Good point. The only time the number three is mentioned is in reference to the gifts.

Did you know the sympolism of the gifts?

Gold represents Christ's kingship.

Frankincense represents Christ the priest. (i.e. priests use incense to sanctify and lift up prayers)

Myrrh represents Christ the prophet, particularly one who will die for his message.

It's similiar to some of the wording used during baptisms when we are annointed and called to "priest, prophet and king."

(Hat-tip: Fr. Gil Martinez, CP, at St. Paul the Apostle Church in NYC. These points were in his homily at Mass this evening.)