The Feast of the Epiphany, traditionally celebrated on 6th January, is moved to this Sunday in some countries. We celebrate the arrival of the “The Three Kings” or ” Wise Men” from the East who came to pay homage to this young infant king. The word Epiphany means “manifestation”. These wise men participated in Gods plan of revelation to reveal his Son to the world.
I often wonder how Our Lady must have felt when these strange, royal men rode up to their humble abode. Had she come to “expect the unexpected” now that she had handed her life over to God? Or did she feel overwhelmed by the arrival of such a prestigious group of visitors? And what of their strange gifts? Did she wonder why these important men had chosen to present her precious Son with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? Was she aware of their significance?
In the ancient world it was good protocol to bring gifts to a king. In Scripture we see the queen of Sheba arrived to meet Solomon with gifts of spices, gold and precious stones (1Kings 10:2); and psalm 72 and Isaiah 60 both speak of bringing gifts to a king. Gold – the metal of kings; frankincense – a sign of worship; and myrrh – an ointment traditionally used for burial.
An American Catholic author called Dr Peter Kreeft speaks of the significance of the three gifts:
Three wise men, three gifts, three offices (prophet, priest and king), three parts of the human soul (intellect, heart and will) because the Inventor and Designer of man is three. The medieval mind saw Trinitarian echoes everywhere, for a very good reason: Everything is made by the Trinity, and what is made must reflect its Maker.
These foreigners, the first Gentiles to recognise Christ, are able to see that the “Light” born into the world was the promised saviour – something that Herod and the Temple priesthood failed to recognize.
In many parts of the world, Epiphany is the day of gift giving, when families gather together to exchange their Christmas gifts and to celebrate the coming of the Magi. We know some families who have decided to take the pressure off Christmas and now have gift giving and a lovely day out at Epiphany. Others celebrate with a family get together.
For many years now in our own family we always ask God’s blessing on our home on Epiphany. If we can, we take some chalk to Mass in the morning and ask Father to bless it. If we can’t, then my husband asks for God’s blessing on the chalk; and we then go and mark each of the doors entering our home with the inscription 20+CMB+15. (See the previous post at Jericho Tree here). The 20&15 stand for the year we are in and the CMB stands for the names traditionally given to the three Kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. He then prays a simple blessing which we found in the Advent and Christmas book by Catherine and Peter Fournier:
O Lord, grant that the names of thy saints Casper, Melchior and Balthazar may, through their merits and petitions bless our home and bring physical health and spiritual protection for all who enter here. Amen
However you choose to celebrate this lovely feast, let us, like the Magi, seek the Christ Child who is the light of the world.