The Magi have reached Bethlehem; the humble dwelling of the King of the Jews has been thrown open to them; there, says St. Matthew, they found the Child, with Mary His Mother (St. Matth. ii. 11). Falling down, they adore the divine King they have so fervently sought after, and for whom the whole earth has been longing.
Here we have the first commencement of the Christian Church. In this humble Stable, we have the Son of God, made Man, presiding as Head over his mystical body; Mary is present, as the co-operatrix in the world’s salvation, and as the Mother of divine Grace; Juda is represented by this Holy Queen and her Spouse St. Joseph; the Gentiles are adoring, in the person of the Magi, whose faith is perfect now that they have seen the Child. It is not a Prophet that they are honouring, nor is it to an earthly King that they open their treasures; He, before whom they prostrate in adoration, is their God. “See, I pray you,” says St. Bernard, “and attentively consider how keen is the eye of faith. It recognises the Son of God whether feeding at his Mother’s breasts, or hanging on the Cross, or dying in the midst of suffering; for the Good Thief recognises him on the Cross, and the Magi recognise him in the Stable; He, in spite of the nails which fasten Him, and they, in spite of the clouts which swathe him (Second Sermon for the Epiphany).”
So that all is consummated, Bethlehem is not merely the birth-place of our Redeemer; it is the cradle of the Church. Well did the Prophet say of it: And thou, Bethlehem, art not the least among the princes of Juda (St. Matth. ii. 6). We can understand St. Jerome’s leaving all the ambitions and comforts of Rome, to go and bury himself in the seclusion of this Cave, where all these mysteries were accomplished. Who would not gladly live and die in this privileged place, sanctified as it is by the presence of our Jesus, embalmed with the fragrance of the Queen of Heaven, filled with the lingering echoes of the songs of Angels, and fresh, even yet, with the memory of those ancestors of our faith, the holy Magi!
These happy Kings are not scandalised at the sight they behold on entering the humble dwelling. They are not disappointed at finding, at the end of their long journey, a weak Babe, a poor Mother, and a wretched Stable. On the contrary, they rightly understand the mystery. Once believing in the promise, that the Infinite God would visit His creature Man, and show him how He loved him–they are not surprised at seeing Him humbling Himself, and taking upon Himself all our miseries that He might be like us in all, save sin. Their own hearts told them that the wound inflicted on man by pride was too deep to be healed by anything short of an extreme remedy; so that, to them, these strange humiliations at Bethlehem bespeak the design and action of a God. Israel, too, is in expectation of the Messias, but he must be mighty and wealthy and exalted, above all other kings, in earthly glory; the Magi, on the contrary, see in the humility and poverty of this weak Babe of Bethlehem the indications of the true Messias. The grace of God has triumphed in these faithful men; they fall down before Him, and, full of admiration and love, they adore Him.
Who could describe the sweet conversations they held with His Blessed Mother? for, the King himself, whom they were come in search of, broke not, even for their sakes, the voluntary silence he had imposed on himself by becoming an Infant. He accepted their homage, he sweetly smiled upon them, He blessed them; but He would not speak to them; Mary alone was to satisfy, by her sublime communications, the holy curiosity of the three pilgrims, who represented the entire human race. How amply must she not have rewarded their faith and love, by announcing to them the Mystery of that virginal Birth, which was to bring salvation to the world; by telling them of the joys of her own maternal heart; and by describing to them the sweet perfections of the divine Child! They themselves would fix their eyes on the Blessed Mother, and listen to her every word with devout attention; and oh! how sweetly must not divine grace have penetrated their hearts through the words of Her, whom God Himself has chosen as the means to lead men to the knowledge and the love of His sovereign Majesty! The Star, which, but an hour ago, had brightly shone for them in the heavens, was replaced by another, of a lovelier light, and stronger influence; and it prepared them for the contemplation of that God, who calls Himself the bright and morning Star (Apoc. xxii. 16)! The whole world seemed now a mere nothing in their eyes; the Stable of Bethlehem held within it all the riches of heaven and earth. They had shared in that long expectation of the human race, the expectation of four thousand years–and now, it seemed but as a moment, so full and perfect was their joy at having found the God, who alone can satisfy the desires of man’s heart.
They understood and entered into the merciful designs of their Emmanuel; they gratefully and humbly contracted with Him the alliance He so mercifully made, through them, with the human race; they adored the just judgments of God, who was about to cast off an unbelieving people; they rejoiced at the glories of the Christian Church, which had thus been begun in their persons; they prayed for us, their posterity in that same Church.
We, dear Babe of Bethlehem!–we the Gentiles, who, by our regeneration, have become the posterity of these first Cnristians–we adore Thee as they did. Since their entrance into Bethlehem, long ages have passed away; but there has been an unbroken procession of people and nations tending towards Thee under the guidance of the Star of Faith. We have been made members of Thy Church, and we adore Thee with the Magi. In one thing are we happier than these first-born of the Church; we have heard Thy sacred words and teachings, we have contemplated Thy sufferings and Thy Cross, we have been witnesses of Thy Resurrection, we have heard the whole universe, from the rising to the setting of the sun, hymning Thy blessed and glorious Name: well may we adore and love Thee as King of the earth! The Sacrifice, whereby all thy Mysteries are perpetuated and renewed, is now offered up daily in every part of the world; the voice of Thy Church is heard speaking to all men; and all this light and all these graces are ours! The Church, the ever-enduring Bethlehem, the House of the Bread of Life, gives Thee to us; and we are for ever feasting on thy adorable beauty. Yea, sweet Jesus, we adore Thee with the Magi.
And thou, O Mary! teach us as thou didst teach the Magi. Unfold to us, and each year more clearly, the sweet Mystery of thy Jesus, and, at length, win us over unreservedly to His service. Thou art our Mother–watch over us, and suffer us not to lose any of the lessons He teaches us. May Bethlehem, wherein we have entered in company with the holy Magi, work in us the renovation of our whole lives. 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