The Star foretold by Balaam having risen in the East, the three Magi, whose hearts were full of the expectation of the promised Redeemer, are immediately inflamed with the desire of going in search of Him. The announcement of the glad coming ot the King of the Jews is made to these holy Kings in a mysterious and silent manner; and hereby it differs from that made to the Shepherds of Bethlehem, who were invited to Jesus’ Crib by the voice of an Angel. But the mute language of the Star was explained to them by God Himself, for He revealed His Son to them; and this made their Vocation superior in dignity to that of the Jewish Shepherds, who, according to the dispensation of the Old Law, could know nothing save by the ministry of Angels.
The divine grace, which spoke, directly and by itself, to the souls of the Magi, met with a faithful and unhesitating correspondence. St. Luke says of the Shepherds, that they came with haste to Bethlehem (St. Luke, ii. 16); and the Magi show their simple and fervent eagerness by the words they addressed to Herod: We have seen His Star in the East, they say, and we are come to adore him (St. Matth. ii. 2).
When Abraham received the command from God to go out of the laud ot Chaldea, which was the land of his fathers and kindred, and go into a strange country, he obeyed with such faithful promptitude, as to merit the being made the Father of all them that believe (Rom. iv. 11): so, likewise, the Magi, by reason of their equally docile and admirable faith, have been judged worthy to be called the Fathers of the Gentile Church.
They, too, or at least one or more of them, went out from Chaldea, if we are to believe St. Justin and Tertullian. Several of the Fathers, among whom are the two just mentioned, assert that one, if not two, of these holy Kings was from Arabia. A popular tradition, now for centuries admitted into christian Art, tells us that one of the three was from Ethiopia; and certainly, as regards this last opinion, we have David and other Prophets telling us that the coloured inhabitants of the banks of the Nile were to be objects of God’s special mercy.
The term Magi implies that they gave themselves to the study of the heavenly bodies, and that, too, for the special intention of finding that glorious Star, whose rising had been prophesied. They were of the number of those Gentiles who, like the centurion Cornelius, feared God, had not been defiled by the worship of idols, and maintained, in spite of all the ignorance which surrounded them, the sacred traditions of the religion that was practised by Abraham and the Patriarchs.
The Gospel does not say that they were Kings; but the Church applies to them those verses of the Psalm, where David speaks of the Kings of Arabia and Saba, that should hereafter come to the Messias, bringing their offerings of gold. The tradition of their being Kings rests on the testimony of St. Hilary of Poitiers, of St. Jerome, of the Poet Juvencus, of St. Leo, and several others; and it would be impossible to controvert it by any well-grounded arguments. Of course, we are not to suppose them to have been Monarchs, whose kingdoms were as great as those of the Roman Empire; but we know, that the Scripture frequently applies this name of King to petty princes, and even to mere governors of provinces. The Magi, therefore, would be called Kings, if they exercised authority over a considerable number of people; and, that they were persons of great importance, we have a strong proof in the consideration and attention showed them by Herod, into whose palace they enter, telling him that they are come to pay their homage to the new-born King of the Jews. The city of Jerusalem is thrown into a state of excitement by their arrival, which would scarce have occurred had not the three strangers, who came for a purpose which few heeded, been attended by a numerous retinue, or had not attracted attention by their imposing appearance.
These Kings, then, docile to the divine inspiration, suddenly leave their country, their riches, their quiet, in order to follow a Star: the power of that God, who had called them, unites them in the same path, as they were, already, one in faith. The Star goes on before them, marking out the route they were to follow: the dangers of such a journey, the fatigues of a pilgrimage which might last for weeks or months, the fear of awakening suspicions in the Roman Empire towards which they were evidently tending–all this was nothing to them; they were told to go, and they went.
Their first stay is at Jerusalem, for the Star halts there. They, Gentiles, come into this Holy City, (which is soon to have God’s curse upon it,) and they come to announce that Jesus Christ is come! With all the simple courage, and all the calm conviction of Apostles and Martyrs, they declare their firm resolution of going to Him, and of adoring Him. Their earnest inquiries constrain Israel, who was the guardian of the divine prophecies, to confess one of the chief marks of the Messias–his Birth in Bethlehem. The Jewish Priesthood fulfils, though with a sinful ignorance, its sacred ministry, and Herod sits restlessly on his throne, plotting murder. The Magi leave the faithless City, which has turned the presence of the Magi into a mark of its own reprobation. The Star reappears in the heavens, and invites them to resume their journey. Yet a few hours, and they will be at Bethlehem, at the feet of the King they are in search of.
O dear Jesus! we, also, are following Thee; we are walking in Thy light, for Thou hast said, in the Prophecy of Thy beloved Disciple: I am the bright and morning Star (Apoc. xxii. 16). The meteor that guides the Magi is but Thy symbol, O divine Star! Thou art the morning Star; for Thy Birth proclaims that the darkness of error and sin is at an end. Thou art the morning Star; for, after submitting to death and the tomb, thou wilt suddenly arise from that night of humiliation to the bright morning of Thy glorious Resurrection. Thou art the morning Star; for, by Thy Birth and the Mysteries which are to follow, Thou announcest unto us the cloudless day of eternity. May Thy light ever beam upon us! May we, like the Magi, be obedient to its guidance, and ready to leave all things in order to follow it! We were sitting in darkness when thou didst call us to Thy grace, by making this Thy light shine upon us. We were fond of our darkness, and Thou gavest us a love for the Light! Dear Jesus! keep up this love within us. Let not sin, which is darkness, ever approach us. Preserve us from the delusion of a false conscience. Avert from us that blindness into which fell the City of Jerusalem and her king, and which prevented them from seeing the Star. May Thy Star guide us through life, and bring us to Thee, our King, our Peace, our Love!
We salute thee, too, O Mary, thou Star of the Sea, that shinest on the waters of this life, giving calm and protection to thy tempest-tossed children who invoke thee! Thou didst pray for the Magi as they traversed the desert; guide also our steps, and bring us to Him who is Thy Child and Thy Light eternal. Amen by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1870
INTROIT Malachias 3: 1
Behold the Lord the Ruler is come: and the Kingdom is in His Hand, and power, and dominion. (Ps. 71: 2) Give to the king Thy judgment, O God: and to the king’s Son Thy justice. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to theHoly Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat Behold the Lord the Ruler is come…
O God, Who on this day, didst manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles by the guidance of a star: graciously grant, that we, who know Thee now by faith, may be led on even to contemplate the beauty of Thy Majesty. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen
Of the Blessed Virgin Mary
O God, it was through the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary that Thou didst bestow the gift of eternal life upon mankind. Grant that we may feel the powerful intercession of Mary, through whom we were privileged to receive the giver of life, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord…
For the Church
Graciously accept the prayers of Thy Church, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that, overcoming all hostility and error, She may serve Thee in safety and freedom. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen
EPISTLE Isaias 60: 1-6
Lessons from Isaias the Prophet. Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon Thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. Life up thy eyes round about and see: all these are gathered together: they are come to thee; thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, a=the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense and showing forth praise to the Lord.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Isaias 60: 6, 1
All they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense and showing forth praise to the Lord. V. Arise and be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Matthew 2: 2) We have seen His star in the East, and are come with gifts to adore the Lord. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 2: 1-2
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda in the days of King Herod, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him. And king Herod hearing this was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the Prophet: And thou Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the Captain that shall rule My people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them: and sending them into Bethlehem said: Go and diligently inquire after the Child, and when you have found Him, bring me word again that I also may come and adore Him. Who having heard the king went their way. 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, (here genuflect) and falling down they adored Him. And opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalms 71: 10-11
The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: and all kings of the earth shall adore Him: all nations shall serve Him.
Graciously look down, we beseech Thee, O Lord, upon the gifts of Thy Church by which gold, frankincense and myrrh are no longer laid before Thee; but he is sacrificed and received who by those very gifts was signified, Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God
Forever and ever. R.Amen.
Of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Through Thy clemency, O Lord, and by the intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin, may this offering avail unto our prosperity and peace, now and for evermore…
For the Church
Protect us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, who assist at Thy mysteries, that holding fast to things divine, we may serve Thee both in body and soul. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen
PREFACE of the Epiphany
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: for when Thine only-begotten Son was manifested in the substance of our mortal flesh, with the new light of His own Immortality He restored us. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying:
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
Communicating, and keeping this most holy day on which Thine only-begotten Son, who is coeternal with Thee in Thy glory, showed Himself in true flesh and with a visible body like unto us; and also reverencing the memory first of the same glorious Mary, ever Virgin, Mother of the same our God and Lord Jesus Christ: as also of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddeus; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Xystus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy Saints, through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may in all things be defended by the help of Thy protection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Matthew 2: 2
We have seen His Star in the East, and are come with gifts to adore the Lord.
Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that by a purified mind we may attain to the understanding of that which we solemnly celebrate. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
Of the Blessed Virgin Mary
May this Communion, O Lord, cleanse us from sin and bestow on us spiritual health from heaven through the intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin, the Mother of God…
For the Church
We beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that Thou wouldst not allow to be exposed to human perils, those whom Thou hast been pleased to make sharers of these divine mysteries. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen