6 January, 2008 : Feast of the Epiphany Year A
Setting: Prayer table with white cloth and white candle; golden crown; bejewelled box and a casket for frankincense.
Background illustration – a large star
Sr, Sheila McNamara ©2004
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12 (adapted)
King Herod heard this; he was frightened, and all Jerusalem as well. So the called the chief priests and the scribes together and asked where the Messiah was to be born.
“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, for the prophet wrote:
“And you Bethlehem,
in the land of Judah,
from you is to come a ruler
who it to shepherd
my people Israel.”
Herod called for the wise men to let him know where they found Jesus, so that he might pay him homage. The wise men set off; ahead of them was the star. When it stopped, they were overjoyed; and entering the stable they found the child with Mary, his mother. They knelt down before him; then they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went home a different way.
This is the Gospel of the Lord
Today, we celebrate the ancient day of Epiphany; a day when gifts are brought by the wise men to Jesus.
In many countries, this feast is joyously celebrated and gifts are given – for example, in Puerto Rico children leave hay in their shoes for the wise men’s camels, and find gifts there in the morning.
Reflecting on the readings with the children:
How did the wise men come to know about Jesus?
Where did they travel from?
Do you know their names?
The wise men brought gifts to Jesus, just as we take gifts to new-born babies today. What gifts did they bring?
Why did the wise men go home by a different route?
In the time that Jesus lived, there were no maps, so people used the sun (in the day) and the moon and stars at night as guides.
The wise men came from countries to the east of Bethlehem; they may have travelled from as far away as Asia and Persia – along the Silk Road – and they are thought to represent all the peoples of the world.
Their names were thought to be Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar.
The gifts they brought have significance:
- Gold is a sign of royalty – a gift fit for a King..
- Frankincense – makes a pleasant type of smoke and is used in prayer; it shows that Jesus is holy.
- Myrrh – is a bitter herb that is made into an ointment to embalm the dead. A sign that Jesus would suffer and die.