We know that in St Matthew’s Gospel they were known as wise men. Here were sophisticated, learned men, observers of the heaven, reading the signs in the heavens. They were men looking for integration and luminosity, looking for what is true and good and beautiful. They were very different from the shepherds that came to see the child laying in the manger. The shepherds were simple uncomplicated people and they represented the people of Israel. They came in response to the messenger of an angel. They went home rejoicing and praising God for what they had seen and heard. The wise men were very different from the shepherds. They came from the east. They represented the gentile world. God revealed the light of the world by the light of a star. Here was the sign of great hope. Here was the light that will enlighten the whole world. The word “epiphany” means manifestation or showing. The feast this weekend celebrates that God reveals himself to the whole world, represented by these outsiders.
And they came bringing gifts.
This gift of gold recognised Jesus as the king. With the wise men we bring our commitment to work with Jesus in bringing about his kingdom on earth as we acknowledge him as our king.
Frankincense gives off a sweet-scented cloud to accompany or prayer rising up to God. Our gift is our prayer and commitment to making the Eucharist the source and summit of our life.
Myrrh is an oil extracted from the bark of a tree and is used in embalming a dead body. It reminds us that Jesus is the suffering servant who will take the sins of the people on himself. Myrrh is our gift of faith and trust that Jesus has conquered death. He is our hope.
“O Light of God. Rising for us at the birth of Jesus,
shine powerfully through the darkness of this age
and guide us in the ways of wisdom
O Light of God, resplendent in the teaching of Jesus,
may we grow in faith and experience the delight of
walking in your paths.
O Light of God, implanted in our hearts by the Spirit
of Jesus, may we experience what it is the fall on our
knees in adoration.” (Sylvester O’Flynn OFM Cap)