Epiphany - Year C
THE MAGI OR WISEMEN
In ancient Iran--also known as Persia--a priest was called a "magus." The plural is "magi". The word "magic" comes from the same root. Magi were experts in astronomy. This was useful in determining the calendar and the end of winter and the spring planting season. They believed that stars and other celestial objects actually influenced, rather than merely coincided with, earthly events. One, or possibly a series of omens, led them to believe that a royal prince had been born in Israel. They were sent as ambassadors to provide tribute to the newborn. The bible does not say how many Magi visited. It is assumed that there were three because of the number of gifts.
EPIPHANY HOME BLESSING
The Holy Family welcomed the Magi on Epiphany. There is a beautiful tradition that has been inspired by this event. Take some chalk and either have it blessed by your pastor or say your own blessing over it with your family. Ask God to welcome strangers to your home during the coming year. Finally write these numbers and letters over the front door of your home:
20 + C + M + B + the last digits of the current year.
The letters represent the traditional names of the Wise Men--Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
MYRRH AND FRANKINCENSE
The gifts brought by the Magi were both appropriate and expensive. The value of gold is obvious but what of the other presents? Myrrh is an aromatic substance made from the sap of Myrtle balsam trees found in India, Africa and Saudi Arabia. It is a natural antiseptic and useful as a medicine. Egyptians used myrrh for embalming mummies. It is now used for toothpaste and mouthwash.
Incense is a hardened gum that also comes from trees found in the same areas. The word "Frank" comes from an old French word that means "marked." It is a stamp that the incense is "free" from contaminants or "pure". (Franking is still used for free mail rights given to members of Congress.) Incense was used primarily to cover up the smells caused by animal sacrifices. Hence it was connected with worship.
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