* Be sure to try the links to online activities in larger bold type.
* Listen to today's Gospel reading for Epiphany
Were They Kings?
There have been numerous traditions that have grown up about the Wise Men. Typically we think of there being three wise men because of the number of gifts, but Matthew doesn't tell us the exact number. Since the 3rd century, Christian writers have referred to them as kings, even though Matthew doesn't specifically tell us that they were royalty. Their names in the West, Gaspar (or Caspar), Melchior, and Balthasar date to the 6th century. The names mean: Master-of-Treasure, King, and Protect-the-King, respectively. The Syrian Church has given them the following Persian names: Larvandad, Hormisdas, and Gushnasaph.
St. Bede the Venerable fills in a few gaps, providing colorful details about the Magi:
The first was called Melchior. He was an old man, with white hair and a long beard; he offered gold to the Lord as to his King. The second, Gaspar by name, young, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense, the homage due to Divinity. The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was middle-aged and called Balthasar. The myrrh he held in his hand prefigured the death of the son of Man (see The Catholic Source Book).
St. Bede hints that the magi represent different races, an idea that was further developed around the 14th century, in which the wise men were said to represent the three known races of the time, European, Asian, and African.
* Make one of the Magi online.
The Epiphany Star
Christ is the star that all wise people follow, as did the Wise Ones of old. For ancient people a five-pointed star at the top of a tree symbolized the pentagram--the so-called "star of mankind." But for Christians a five-pointed star represents the star followed by the non-Jewish (Gentile) Magi.
* Can you fold and cut a perfect 5-pointed star after watching this You Tube?
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.(from http://www.4catholiceducators.com/Year%20C/epiphany-c.htm)
Matthew 2:11, "On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother."
Marking the lintels of doorways is an old European practice used throughout the world and usually represent a traditional Epiphany prayer and blessing.
Around January 6, the symbol +C+B+M+ with two numbers before and two numbers after (for example, 20+C+B+M+19) is seen written in chalk above the doorway of Christian homes. The letters are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. These letters also abbreviate the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, "May Christ bless the house." The beginning and ending numbers are the year, 2017 in the example above. The crosses represent Christ.
Mary seat of Wisdom
Mary Seat of Wisdom (Latin: Sedes Sapientiae) is the traditional Epiphany depiction of Mary and the child. "Artistic representations of Mary, Seat of Wisdom often show her seated on a throne, holding the Christ child on her lap and offering him for adoration. Many early Christians saw Christ as Wisdom incarnate; therefore, by holding him on her lap, Mary becomes the “seat” of wisdom. On another, deeper level, the title also refers to the fact that Mary “held” wisdom inside her by carrying Christ in her womb." from Busted Halo
Read Tomie dePaola's book The Story of the Three Wise Kings . This story along with others is now contained in the book Joy to the World. The author includes this note, "In this book, I have chosen to paint the mother and child in the traditional pose referred to as “Seat of Wisdom, Throne of Justice,” This pose was frequently used in Romanesque paintings of the Adoration of the Kings.
* Listen to a reading of Tomie dePaola's Story of the Three Wise Kings on You Tube.
In a Dream
A favorite depiction of the magi being warned in a dream not to return to Herod is The Dream of the Wise Men--a column capital from the Cathédrale Saint-Lazare in Autun, France credited to Gislebertus.
"...in the stonework of France's Autun Cathedral, where the three are in bed under a large blanket, all wearing their crowns. An angel wakes them to point out the star. One of them is shown with eyes wide open in wonder, another half-awake, but the third remains sound asleep--as if to evoke the three stages of spiritual alertness in the medieval tradition."from "The Mystery of the Magi" by Michael Paul Gallagher which originally appeared in The Tablet in London England in December of 1989.