Thursday, January 6, 2011


Blessed Epiphany - The Feast of the Three Kings- The Twelfth Day of Christmas!

Many countries, mine included, celebrated Epiphany last Sunday, but today, the 6th of January, is traditional Epiphany.  So, why not treat this day as special anyway?

Read Tomie DePaola's "The Story of The Three Wise Kings." Sing or listen to "We Three Kings"  Read the Bible passages from Epiphany Sunday.

Isaiah 60: 1-6
Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-6
Matthew2: 1-12

 ( click for quick links to read the passages if you don't have a Bible handy)

Wisemen. It's sometimes translated as magi or kings. The Haydock commentary says that both the Latin and Greek texts signify philosophers or astronomers. 2  (If you're not familiar with the Haydock, I'd suggest it. There's a link on my sidebar. It gives details about the translation and historical context that gives light to many details about the Bible)

Contrary to popular opinion, their number and their names are uncertain. The Bible account doesn't specify. The Latin tradition names three: Gaspar (or Caspar), Melchior, and Balthasar. In the East, tradition seems to indicate there were twelve. If you want to explore the names and numbers question further, pop over to New Advent. 

I guess we always picture the caravans of camels coming to see Jesus because we know they came from the East and because we read Isaiah today:
 "...Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord..." Isaiah 60: 6 (That's just a bit of the Isaiah reading that we hear on Epiphany.)

Now open to Matthew 2:1 
So, along come the magi, following a star, with their caravans and they stop over at King Herod's. (We read a bit of that on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.) Then they go on to see Jesus and do him homage and offer him gold frankincense, and myrrh.When they go home they avoid seeing Herod again, because of a dream that warns them he's out to get Jesus.

We learn from this the good news that Jesus didn't come to the world only for the salvation of the Jewish people but to the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well. Prophesy of his coming was known to these wisemen and they came looking for him, though, they didn't know all the details, not having read the Jewish texts. They had to stop and ask directions. Herod's own wiseguys tell him that the prophesey says "Bethlehem," so he sends the wisemen to Bethlehem to search.
The meaning of the gifts for baby Jesus:
Gold is for His kingship.
Frankincense for His priesthood and divinity
Myrrh for His humanity and death.

You all know what gold is.
Frankincense is dried tree sap that is burned as incense to bring prayers to God.
Myrrh is also a dry sap. Its name in Arabic means "bitter." It's used to heal wounds and for embalming the dead. It was in fact it was used for Jesus when he was buried. (John 19:39)

You may also want to read today's Gospel reading from Luke 4: 14-22 in which Jesus is teaching from Isaiah and you get another "Aha!" as Jesus reveals that he is fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah.
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country.
And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read;
and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"

 Blessings and Protection Traditions (or should I say traditions with a little "t" because they are little "t" traditions. )

The Fisheaters and The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould both tell about a tradition of using chalk that has been blessed to write the initials of the wisemen and the year over your door for protection. You connect them with crosses so it looks something like this.
C.M.B. are also the first letters for the Latin blessing, "Christus mansionem benedicat" (May Christ bless this dwelling.)

You can also go around your home sprinkling holy water for blessing and protection. It would be nice to ask your priest to come bless your home, but otherwise, you can sprinkle the holy water yourself and ask for God's blessing.