This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany and it commemorates the visit of the Magi or Wise Men to the baby Jesus. The significance of this feast lies in the recognition of Jesus as the manifestation of God to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi who were not of Jewish descent. The story is traditionally associated with the Gospel of Matthew “Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-12).
According to historians, these gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were a standard way to honor a god in the ancient world, “these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.”
Biblically speaking, Isaiah prophesied that these gifts would be given to the Messiah. “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Mid′ian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Isaiah 60:6) (Symbolism of the Three Gifts of the Magi --Aleteia)
The three gifts presented by the Magi—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—hold symbolic significance: Gold is a precious metal and is often associated with royalty and wealth. The gift of gold to Jesus symbolizes his kingship. It acknowledges Jesus as the King of Kings and emphasizes his royal and divine nature. Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in religious ceremonies and symbolizes the spiritual realm. The gift of frankincense acknowledges Jesus as a divine being and suggests his role as a high priest who would intercede between God and humanity. Myrrh is a fragrant resin often used in embalming and symbolizes suffering and death. The gift of myrrh foreshadows Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross and underscores his humanity. “And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it” (Mark 15:23).
These three gifts, therefore, carry deep symbolic meanings, emphasizing Jesus' identity as the King, High Priest, and Savior. The Feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany is a reminder of the universal significance of Jesus' birth and the acknowledgment of his divinity by people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
This feast marks the twelfth day of Christmas, marking the end of the Christmas season. We can now take down our Christmas decorations and on January 14, we resume Ordinary time.