They came into the house and saw the youngToday is the feast of the Epiphany, or the visit of Wise Men (Magi) to the Holy Family. This is a wonderful feast, recorded in the Gospels and celebrated throughout the Christian world.
child with Mary, his mother, and they fell
down and worshiped him. Opening their
treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold,
frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
When we were kids we called it Greek Christmas. It is their Feast of Lights, celebrated as the emergence of the Church of Christ into the light, after three centuries of life in the catacombs under Roman persecution. Our Greek buddies had two Christmas celebrations and our Jewish pals had Hanukkah which was a prolonged series of gifts as well. We did Ok. Only suckers beef.
You see for the Greeks and the Eastern Rite Churches The Epiphany encompasses not only the birth of Christ, but also celebrates the Baptism of Jesus, the visit of Magi and Marriage Feast Cana.
To us Catholics, Latin Rite, we think only about the visit of the three Wise men.
Theologically, it was the Greek Rite that has the more elaborate sensibility. The Eastern Orthodox patriarchs of the early Christian Church fused the Theophony of Christ ( Nativity) and the Epiphany of Christ ( the appearance of ) as the Body of Christ ( the Church) emerging to the light.
When I was a little guy, I got a particular kick out of the three Magi. Two white guys and a black dude, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. How the hell we came up with those names is a wonder because none of the three Gospel accounts mention their names. Ok by me. They, to me, were like Bob Hightower, Pedro, and the Abilene Kid from the Three Godfathers. They were like my many uncles who dropped off gifts, unannounced and for no reason other than they thought of me.
To the Christ Child the Magi brought gifts. Until I was in third grade, I was totally flummoxed on their holiday selections: gold, frankincense and mur. . .murph.
For years I thought it was Murph, like my Dad's cousin Bart Murphy, who played for the Leo Lights in 1945.
I did learn that it was; Myrrh was an oil used for anointing Kings.
Gold, I could understand. Everyone needs some walking around money; especially a young Jewish couple on the bad side of King Herod and flopping in a stable.
Frankincence was a perfume, or kind of incense that made sense - in stable and new born baby and all.
Oil - like the stuff we oiled our Wilson, Rawlings and Spaulding mitts with, sticking a baseball in its hollow and tying it up tight for a few days.
Oil makes things soft in order to make them tough. Tough is pliable, durable, but never hard,
Hard is ruined. Leaving an un-seasoned baseball glove out in the rain made it hard, brittle and useless.
Oil is for annointing us, toughening us and keeping us from becoming hard. It is probably the best gift of the three.
Four hard people tortured a special needs kid, this past week. Stone hard killers continued their work here in Chicago. A hard man killed gunned down innocent people in Florida, A hardened terrorist ran a truck into and killed four Israeli soldier. At every ramp on every expressway, people with a hard road will beg for change and some of us will harden our hearts to them. It is 18 degrees and they are asking for a little help. I saw a couple load up on surf and turf at the Golden Steer on Friday night and leave no tip whatsoever. People need some myrrh.
A hard guy can never ever be a tough guy.
Wish St. Matthew had written, "they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and oil." I went a long time thinking it was Murph.