The Feast of Epiphany, 2020

Sermon given by Father Pancras Raja on January 6th, 2020

 

“And opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of Gold frankincense and Myrrh” (Mat. 2: 11)

The three Magi Kings known as Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar were natives of Persia, Arabia and Sabba (Ps. 71, 10), countries to the east of Palestine. The country Sabba mentioned in the psalm is the south Pandian kingdom comprised of Ceylon and South India. These three Kings were well versed in the natural sciences, and well-read in the Scriptures of the people of God; and on account of their learning they were called Magi (Wisemen).

In the same night in which the incarnate Word was born, they were informed of his Birth by the ministry of the holy angels. The three angels spoke in dreams to each of the wise man under his care. They were informed that the King of the Jews was born as true God and true man; that He was the Messiahs and Savior who was expected; that it was the One who was promised in the Scriptures and prophecies (Gen. 3, 10).

The three kings resolved to depart without delay for Judea in search of the divine Child in order to adore Him. The three Kings prepared gifts of gold, incense and myrrh in equal quantities, being guided by the same mysterious impulse; they procured on the same day the necessary camels and provisions together with several servants for the journey.

At the same time the holy angel, who had brought the news from Bethlehem to the kings, formed of the material air a most resplendent star, although not so large
as those of the firmament; for it was not to ascend higher than was necessary for the purpose of its formation. It took its course through the atmospheric regions in order
to guide and direct the holy Kings to the cave, where the Child awaited them.

On coming out of their palaces each one of the kings saw this new star (Mat. 2, 2)
although each from a different standpoint, because it was only one star and it was placed in such distance and height that it could be seen by each one at the same time.

The Magi pursued their journey under the guidance of the star without losing sight of it until they arrived at Jerusalem. They entered the city and openly inquired after Him, saying (Mat. 2, 8): “Where is the king of the Jews, who is born? For we
have seen his star in the East, announcing to us his Birth and we have come to see Him and adore Him.”

Their inquiry came to the ears of Herod, who at that time unjustly reigned in Judea and lived in Jerusalem. The wicked king, panic-stricken at the thought that a more legitimate claimant to the throne should have been born, felt much disturbed and outraged by this report. With him the whole city was aroused.

Herod called together a meeting of the principal priests and scribes in order to ask them where Christ was to be born according to the prophecies and holy Scriptures. They answered that, according to the words of one of the Prophets, Micheas (Mich. 5, 2), He was to be born in Bethlehem; since it was written by him that thence the Ruler of Israel was to arise.

Then he secretly called the Magi in order to learn of them at what time they had seen the star as harbinger of his Birth (Mat. 2, 7). They ingenuously informed him, and
he sent them away to Bethlehem, saying to them in covert malice: “Go and inquire after the Infant, and when you have found Him, announce it to me, in order that I, too, may go to recognize and adore Him.”

On leaving Jerusalem the Magi again found the star. By its light they were conducted to Bethlehem and to the cave of the Nativity. Diminishing in size it hovered over the head of the infant Jesus and bathed Him in its light; whereupon the matter of which it had been composed dissolved and disappeared.

The Magi had already been instructed that the Mother of the Newborn was a Virgin, and that He was the true God and true man. The heavenly Mother awaited the pious and devout kings, standing with the Child in her arms. The three kings of the East entered and at the first sight of the Son and Mother they were for a considerable space of time overwhelmed with wonder. They prostrated themselves upon the earth, and in this position, they worshiped and adored the Infant, acknowledging Him as the true God and man, and as the Savior of the human race, on behalf of all kings of the earth. “And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.” (Ps 71: 11)

In this intercourse the three kings consumed three hours, and then they asked permission of most Holy Mary to go to the city in order to seek a lodging, as they could find no room for themselves in the cave.

On the following day at dawn they returned to the cave of the Nativity in order to offer to the heavenly King the special gifts of gold, incense and myrrh which they had provided. They chose another way for their return journey, in order not to meet Herod in Jerusalem.

Let us today ponder over the meaning of the gifts which the magi offered to Jesus. It is commonly said that the Magi offered gold because Our Lord was king of heaven and earth, frankincense because he is almighty God, and myrrh because he is also man – and was to suffer death for the sins of the world.

But there is another significance of these gifts which is perhaps more practical for us, because it suggests more directly to the three gifts which each of us must offer to Jesus if we would part take of salvation and sanctification which he wanted to bring to us.

The gift of gold represents almsgiving; frankincense – prayer; and myrrh – fasting. The three important virtues by which we are redeemed from the tyranny of the world, the devil and the flesh!

1 The love of the world and the treasures it offers (gold) can only be destroyed by sacrificing them (by almsgiving) for the sake of God, of his Church and of his poor!

2 The power of the devil who sets himself up in the place of God can only be resisted by constant prayer and loving service to God.

3 The lustful appetite of the body can only be controlled by mortification of various kinds – by persistently refusing to our body all dangerous and sinful indulgences – and by even depriving it of lawful pleasures.

Teaching: Our ceaseless offer to Jesus, however, must be love, which is the
gold; continual prayer, which is the incense; and the patient acceptance of labors and true mortifications, which is the myrrh.