Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Sixth Day Within the Octave of the Epiphany

The Magi were not satisfied with paying their adorations to the great King whom Mary presented to them. After the example of the Queen of Saba, who paid her homage to the Prince of Peace in the person of King Solomon, these three Eastern Kings opened their treasures and presented their offerings to Jesus. Our Emmanuel graciously accepted those mystic gifts and suffered them not to leave him until he had loaded them with gifts infinitely more precious than those he had vouchsafed to receive. The Magi had given him of the riches which this earth produced; Jesus repays them with heavenly gifts. He strengthened in their hearts the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; he enriched, in their persons, the Church of which they were the representatives; and the words of the Canticle of Mary were fulfilled in them: He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away, for the Synagogue refused to follow them in their search after the King of the Jews.

But let us consider the gifts made by the Magi, and let us, together with the Church and the Holy Fathers, acknowledge the Mysteries expressed by them. The gifts were three in number, in order to honor the sacred number of the Persons in the divine Essence. as likewise to express the triple character of the Emmanuel. He had come, that he might be King over the whole world; it was fitting that men should offer Gold to him, for it is the emblem of sovereign power. He had come to be High Priest, and by his mediation, reconcile earth to heaven. Incense, then, was an appropriate gift, for the Priest uses it when he offers sacrifice. But thirdly, it was only by his own death that he was to obtain possession of the throne, which was prepared for his glorified Human Nature, and the perpetual Sacrifice of the Divine Lamb was to be inaugurated by this same his Death; the gift of Myrrh was expressive of the Death and Burial of an immortal Victim. The Holy Ghost, who inspired the Prophets, had guided the Magi in their selection of these three gifts. Let us listen to St. Leo, who speaking of this Mystery says with his usual eloquence:

“O admirable Faith, which leads to Knowledge the perfect Knowledge, and which was not taught in the school of earthly wisdom, but was enlightened by the Holy Ghost himself! For, whence had they learnt the supernatural beauty of their three Gifts!—they had had come straight from their own country and had not, as yet, seen Jesus nor beheld in his Infant Face the Light which directed them in the choice of their offerings? While the Star met the gaze of the bodily eye, their hearts were instructed by a stronger light—the ray of Truth. Before setting out on the fatiguing journey, they knew Him to whom were due, by Gold, the honors of a King; by Incense, the worship of God; by Myrrh, the faith in his Mortal Nature.”

But these three gifts, which so sublimely express the three characters of the Man-God, are fraught with instruction for us. They signify three great virtues, which the Divine Infant found in the souls of the Magi, and to which he added increase by his grace. Gold signifies charity, which unites us to God; Frankincense prayer, which brings God into man’s heart; and Myrrh self-abnegation, suffering, and mortification, whereby we are delivered from the slavery of corrupt nature. Find a heart that loves God, that raises herself up to him by prayer, that understands and relishes the power of the cross—and you have in that heart the worthiest offering which can be made to God, and one which he always accepts.

We too, O Jesus! offer thee our treasure and our gifts. We confess thee to be God and Priest and Man. We beseech thee to accept the desire we have of corresponding to the love thou showest us by giving thee our love in return; we love thee, dear Savior! do thou increase our love. Receive also the gift of our Prayer, for though of itself it be tepid and poor, yet it is pleasing to thee because united with the prayer of thy Church; teach us how to make it worthy of thee and how to give it the power of obtaining what thou desirest to grant: form within us the gift of prayer, that it may unceasingly ascend up like sweet Incense in thy sight. And lastly, receive the homage of our contrite and humble hearts, and the resolution we have formed of restraining and purifying our senses by mortification and penance.

The sublime Mysteries, which we are celebrating during this holy season, have taught us the greatness of our own misery, and the immensity of thy love for us, and we feel more than ever the obligation we are under of fleeing from the world and its concupiscences, and of uniting ourselves to thee. The Star shall not have shone upon us in vain: it has brought us to thee, dear King of Bethlehem! and thou shalt be King of our hearts. What have we that we prize and hold dear, which we can hesitate to give thee in return for the sweet infinite treasure of Thyself, which thou hast given to us?

Dear Mother of our Jesus! we put these our offerings into thy hands. The gifts of the Magi were made through thee, and they were pleasing to thy Son; thou must present ours to him, and he will be pleased with them, in spite of their poverty. Our love is deficient; fill up its measure by uniting it with thine own immense love. Second our prayer by thy maternal intercession. Encourage us in our warfare against the world and the flesh. Make sure our perseverance, by obtaining for us the grace of a continual remembrance of the sweet Mysteries which we are now celebrating; pray for us, that after thine own example, we may keep all these things in our hearts. That must be a hard and depraved heart, which could offend Jesus in Bethlehem; or refuse him anything, now that he is seated on thy lap, waiting for our offering! O Mary! keep us from forgetting that we are the children of the Magi, and that Bethlehem is ever open to receive us.

The Church makes commemoration today of the holy Pope and Martyr Hyginus. He held the Apostolic Chair under the reign of Antoninus, and closed his four year Pontificate by martyrdom. We have no history of his life, but we venerate in him one of the links of that grand chain of Pontiffs which unites us, by St. Peter, to our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole weight of the government of the Church was upon his shoulders, and he was courageous and faithful in the discharge of his duties; his reign was during the age of Persecution, when to be Pope was to be a victim of tortures and death. As we have already said, he soon won his Palm and was associated in heaven with the three Magi, who had, before leaving this world, preached the gospel in Greece, the country of our Saint. Let us ask him to bless the offerings we are making to the Divine Infant of Bethlehem, and to pray for us that we may obey this sweet King, who asks us to give him not our blood by martyrdom, but our hearts by charity.

Let us honor the memory of this holy Pope, and say with the Church:

Ant. Iste Sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non tinuit; fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.

Ant. This Saint fought, even unto death, for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was set upon a firm rock.

Oremus. Let Us Pray.

Infirmitatem nostram respice, omnipotens Deus, et quia pondus propriæ actionis gravat, beati Hygini Martyris tui atque Pontificis intercessio gloriosa nos protegat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Have regard, O Almighty God, to our weakness; and whereas we sink under the weight of our own doings, let the glorious intercession of blessed Hyginus, thy Martyr and Bishop, be a protection to us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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