The Magi were not satisfied with paying their adorations to the great King, whom Mary presented to them. After the example of the Queen of Saba, who paid her homage to the Prince of Peace, in the person of King Solomon, these three Eastern Kings opened their treasures, and presented their offerings to Jesus. Our Emmanuel graciously accepted these mystic gifts, and suffered them not to leave him until he had loaded them with gifts infinitely more precious than those he had vouchsafed to receive. The Magi had given him of the riches which this earth produces; Jesus repays them with heavenly gifts. He strengthened in their hearts the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; he enriched, in their persons, the Church of which they were the representatives; and the words of the Canticle of Mary were fulfilled in them: He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away (St. Luke, i. 53), for the Synagogue refused to follow them in their search after the King of the Jews.
But let us consider the gifts made by the Magi, and let us, together with the Church and the Holy Fathers, acknowledge the Mysteries expressed by them. The gifts were three in number, in order to honour the sacred number of the Persons in the divine Essence, as likewise to express the triple character of the Emmanuel. He had come, that He might be King over the whole world; it was fitting that men should offer Gold to Him, for it is the emblem of sovereign power. He had come to be High Priest, and, by His mediation, reconcile earth to heaven; Incense, then, was an appropriate gift, for the Priest uses it when he offers sacrifice. But, thirdly, it was only by His own death that he was to obtain possession of the throne, which was prepared for His glorified Human Nature, and the perpetual Sacrifice of the Divine Lamb was to be inaugurated by this same His Death; the gift of Myrrh was expressive of the Death and Burial of an immortal Victim. The Holy Ghost, who inspired the Prophets, had guided the Magi in their selection of these three gifts. Let us listen to St. Leo, who speaking of this Mystery, says with his usual eloquence:
“O admirable Faith, which leads to Knowledge and perfect Knowledge, and which was not taught in the school of earthly wisdom, but was enlightened by the Holy Ghost Himself! For, whence had they learnt the supernatural beauty of their three Gifts?–they that had come straight from “their own country, and had not, as yet, seen Jesus, nor beheld, in his Infant Face, the Light which directed them in the choice of their offerings? Whilst the Star met the gaze of the bodily eye, their hearts were instructed by a stronger light–the ray of Truth. Before setting out on the fatiguing journey, they knew Him, to whom were due, by Gold, the honours of a King; by Incense, the worship of God; by Myrrh, the faith in His Mortal Nature (Sermon the Fourth On the Epiphany).”
But these three gifts, which so sublimely express the three characters of the Man-God, are fraught with instruction for us. They signify three great virtues, which the Divine Infant found in the souls of the Magi, and to which He added increase by His grace. Gold signifies charity, which unites us to God; Frankincense prayer, which brings God into man’s heart; and Myrrh self-abnegation, suffering, and mortification, whereby we are delivered from the slavery of corrupt nature. Find a heart that loves God, that raises herself up to Him by prayer, that understands and relishes the power of the cross–and you have in that heart the worthiest offering which can be made to God, and one which He always accepts.
We, too, O Jesus! offer Thee our treasure and our gifts. We confess Thee to be God, and Priest, and Man. We beseech Thee to accept the desire we have of corresponding to the love Thou showest us by giving Thee our love in return; we love Thee, dear Saviour! do Thou increase our love. Receive, also, the gift of our Prayer, for, though of itself it be tepid and poor, yet it is pleasing to Thee because united with the prayer of Thy Church: teach us how to make it worthy of Thee and how to give it the power of obtaining what Thou desirest to grant: form within us the gift of prayer, that it may unceasingly ascend up like sweet Incense in Thy sight. And, lastly, receive the homage of our contrite and humble hearts, and the resolution we have formed of restraining and purifying our senses by mortification and penance.
The sublime Mysteries, which we are celebrating during this holy season, have taught us the greatness of our own misery, and the immensity of Thy love for us, and we feel more than ever the obligation we are under of fleeing from the world and its concupiscences, and of uniting ourselves to Thee. The Star shall not have shone upon us in vain: it has brought us to Thee, dear King of Bethlehem! and Thou shalt be King of our hearts. What have we that we prize and hold dear, which we can hesitate to give Thee in return for the sweet infinite treasure of Thyself, which Thou hast given to us?
Dear Mother of our Jesus! we put these our offerings into thy hands. The gifts of the Magi were made through thee, and they were pleasing to thy Son; thou must present ours to Him, and He will be pleased with them, in spite of their poverty. Our love is deficient; fill up its measure by uniting it with thine own immense love. Second our prayer by thy maternal intercession. Encourage us in our warfare against the world and the flesh. Make sure our perseverance, by obtaining for us the grace of a continual remembrance of the sweet Mysteries which we are now celebrating; pray for us, that, after thine own example, we may keep all these things in our hearts. That must be a hard and depraved heart, which could offend Jesus in Bethlehem; or refuse Him anything, now that He is seated on thy lap, waiting for our offering! O Mary! keep us from forgetting that we are the children of the Magi, and that Bethlehem is ever open to receive us.
Let us borrow the language of the ancient Liturgies, in order to give expression to the sentiments awakened in us by all these ineffable Mysteries. Let us begin with this Hymn on the Nativity of our Lord, left us by the saintly Bishop of Poitiers, Venantius Fortunatus. by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1870
St. Hyginus Pope and Martyr According to the Liber Pontificalis, Pope Hyginus was a Greek born in Athens. It further states that he was a philosopher, but modern scholars believe he was confused with two Latin authors who have similar names. Tradition holds that Hyginus organized the hierarchy of the clergy and established the order of ecclesiastical precedence. However, modern scholars tend to doubt this claim and view the governance of the church of Rome during this period of the 2nd century as still more or less collective.
The historian Irenaeus says that the Gnostic Valentinus came to Rome in Hyginus’s time, remaining there until Anicetus became pontiff. Cerdo, another Gnostic and predecessor of Marcion, also lived at Rome in the reign of Hyginus. By confessing his errors and recanting, Cerdo succeeded in obtaining readmission into the good graces of the church, but eventually he fell back into the heresies and was expelled. How many of these events took place during the time of Hyginus is not known. He is traditionally considered to have died a martyr, but ancient sources contain no information on this point. At his death he was buried on the Vatican Hill, near the tomb of St. Peter.
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
For St. Hyginus Pope and Martyr
Be mindful of our weakness, almighty God, and because the burden of our sins weighs heavily upon us, may the glorious intercession of blessed Hyginus, Your Martyr and Bishop, sustain us.
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, 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.
For St. Hyginus Pope and Martyr
O Lord, graciously accept, through the merits of Your blessed Martyr and Bishop Hyginus, the sacrificial gifts dedicated to You, and grant they may prove to be for us a lasting help.
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, 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.
For St. Hyginus Pope and Martyr
Refreshed by partaking of the sacred gift, we beseech You, O Lord our God, that we may enjoy the benefits of the rite we perform through the intercession of blessed Hyginus, Your Martyr and Bishop.
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. 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