The Gifts of the Magi Reveal Christ in Different Ways
January 2, 2020
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
The gifts of the Magi reveal Christ in different ways. Gold, the currency of this world, honored Jesus as a king. Frankincense, usually reserved for use in religious rituals, honored Him as God. The symbolism of myrrh, however, is more complex.
Myrrh was a rare gum used in medicine, mixed with oils for sacred anointings, and applied to bodies for mummification in ancient Egypt. Thus, the gift of myrrh could have been to honor Jesus as a healer, as a priest, or as one who was to die. The Eastern Churches use myrrh as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even in the Catholic Church, our Sacred Chrism oil, blessed by the bishop for baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations, is often scented with myrrh. The smell of myrrh always reminds me of my ordination as a priest, when my hands were covered in this Chrism oil. Its use in the Sacrament of Baptism is a subtle reminder that we are baptized into the death of Jesus as well as His resurrection. We are reminded at that baptismal anointing, too, that we are to serve as priests, prophets, and kings in imitation of and in union with Jesus.
With these richly symbolic gifts, we recognize in the child Jesus the dignity He bears as King of Kings, as God-with-us, and as the true High Priest who has entered for ever into the tabernacle of Heaven. We acknowledge from the beginning that He came to die in order to conquer death forever. We recognize Jesus as the perfect Sacrifice offered to God for the forgiveness of sins.
May the gifts of the Magi inspire us to offer our riches to Jesus for His use, and may the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ reveal to us the great gift of His Presence among us in the Eucharist and in His Body, the Church.