“Bowing down, they offered their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh”

Published on 2 January 2022 - 10:58

The Three Kings are visitors who appear in a chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. Having learned of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, they come “from the East”, guided by a star, to pay homage “to the King of the Jews” and to bring him gifts of great symbolic significance: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

What are we celebrating at the Epiphany?

Twelve days after Christmas, Epiphany celebrates the visit of the Kings from the East to the Infant Jesus. Today, we know them under the names of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, as they were called in the 6th century, a tradition which perpetuated the idea that there were three men, from different continents, and made them kings. In reality, the original chapter as recounted by Saint Matthew, the only evangelist to have mentioned these Kings, is extremely enigmatic, and above all un-historic.
The feast came from the East where it is celebrated on 6th January: a feast of light, a feast of water, it is much more the celebration of the beginning of Christ’s saving mission.
In the Latin liturgy, where this day is not a holy day, the feast is celebrated on the Sunday closest to 6th January, so that the greatest number of the faithful can observe it.

Gold, myrrh, and frankincense: what do the gifts brought by the Three Kings mean?

“Gold, that He was King,” wrote Saint Gregory the Great in a homily on Epiphany, before continuing, “the frankincense, that He was God; and the myrrh, that He was to die.” All the great spiritual traditions of antiquity linked gold with the divine. Characterising the divine, the incense offered by the Magi hails in the baby born in the humble manger, despite appearances, a God. Like frankincense, myrrh was sought after by ancient civilizations for its fragrance. Used to embalm the dead, it was used, according to the Gospel of Saint John, to prepare the mortal remains of Christ.

Epiphany: a star for hoper

The meeting of the wise pagans with the Saviour is a first step in the great silent revolution of a Love without borders, that is offered to every human being. The star that guides them is the one that should shine in each of our lives, each of our communities. So that we become “these bearers of hope”, these missionaries who boldly move forward… without ever stopping.
Let us become these bearers of hope and bow down to this Child-God. On 25th March 1858 in Lourdes, Mary declared, “I am the Immaculate Conception”, the very same day on which she received the message from the Angel announcing the coming of this child …