"...And behold the star which they had seen in the east
went before them, until it came and stood over
where the Child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced
with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house,
they found the Child with Mary His Mother,
and falling down they adored Him;
and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts:
gold, frankincense and myrrh...."
- Matthew 2:9-11
The gospel story of the Magi,
so closely associated with Epiphany,
is not meant to be read as an historical event.
Rather, it is a reflection on an important aspect
of the mystery of The Incarnation:
The Messiah has come to all people and not just to the Jews,
a theme highlighted by Matthew's gospel.
The word "magi" is Greek
and refers to a learned caste in Babylonia,
It fits into the symbolism of supernatural circumstances
that led representatives of the Gentile nations
to the Messiah.
References to prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures
(for example, Isaiah 60:1-6) are used by the author
to emphasize the universal purpose of Jesus' birth.
This gospel reflection on the birth of the Messiah
was embellished by popular details as the centuries passed.
The number of Magi was set at three by Origen (d. 254)
because of the three gifts mentioned.
The Magi were turned into Kings in the 6th century
because of Old Testament references
Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 6O:3.
The representation of the Magi as three kings
along with their physical appearance
comes from pious legends in the 9th century.
They described the kings as representing
the three major races and gave them names:
Melchior, an old white man with a long white beard,
bearing the gift of gold;
Caspar, young and of darker hue, carrying
and Balthasar, a black man, offering myrrh.
GOLD FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH
The three gifts mentioned in the gospel,
were traditional symbols of homage in the East.
Traditionally they have come to symbolize
the destiny of Jesus:
Gold for His Royalty
Frankincense for His Divinity
Myrrh for His Suffering and Death
It is an ancient custom to have a priest come
to bless the home on this Feast.
Since this is usually not possible today,
the same blessing can be read by the head of the home.
After the blessing is read aloud, the father uses
the blessed white chalk to place the initials of the 3 Kings -
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar -
on the inside of the door frame.
The initials can also be written on the red paper.
Frame the initials by the number of the year,
and connect all these symbols by crosses
for example, the new year: 20 + C + M + B + 12.
This symbolizes that all of our comings and goings
will always be in search of the TRUTH,
He whom the Magi searched for by the light of the star.
Epiphany Blessing of the Chalk Prayer
Traditionally offered by the father of the family:
Let us pray. O Lord God, through the power of the priest,
Thou didst bless this creature chalk to make it helpful to man.
Grant that we who use it with faith and inscribe with it
the names of Thy saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar
upon the entrance of our homes, may through their merits
and petition enjoy physical health and spiritual protection.
May all our coming and going during this New Year,
be always in search of Truth and Thy holy will for our lives. Through Christ our Lord.
EPIPHANY NOVENA TO THE MAGI