the shortest distance is between
At the last Mass on Christmas Day we read the prologue of St. John’s Gospel. This is the dense, rich Gospel of Christmas that has no Christmas story at all—just some notions about the Word of God, and light, and a man named John. While I was thinking about this beautiful Gospel in a quiet moment on Christmas Day, I focused on the three gifts mentioned in it, gifts that we receive: glory, grace, and truth.
One of the stories of Christmas that we don’t hear in Church until a little later, until the Epiphany that we celebrate today, is the story of the Magi, and their three gifts. The gifts of the Magi to the newborn Jesus are a bit more famous than the gifts of the Word of God to us in John’s prologue, but I think there is a fascinating parallel to be made between these two sets.
The Magi’s gifts are symbolic; each gift is given to one aspect of Christ. Frankincense is a gift to God, who is Christ; gold is a gift to the king, who is Christ; myrrh is a gift to the man who dies and rises again, who is Christ. Through baptism, we share in Christ’s saving ministry, in His redemption. In a mysterious way, these symbolic gifts are for us as well: Frankincense for our loving relationship with and worship of God, gold for the immense treasure we receive and add to in the richness of the experience of the faith, and myrrh to ease the sorrow of death that we know will turn to eternal life.
These gifts of the Magi come to Christ, and through Christ to us. These are the gifts of the Epiphany. In the prologue of John’s Gospel, we hear about the gifts of Christmas, that Christ gives to us directly: glory, grace, and truth. Glory, our life with God forever in heaven, is like the frankincense of the continual worship of a life truly with God. Grace is the favor of God that builds up in us and keeps us close to God, not unlike the myrrh that preserves what is mortal so that it may be fit for immortality. Truth is the gold of our life with Christ, the faith that we receive in teaching and the faith that we transmit through living, full of rich diversity, perennially renewed in its constancy. These treasures are what we give and receive in the world’s greatest treasure, Christ.
Gold, frankincense, myrrh; glory, grace, and truth: Our Lord, rich in mercy, is always sharing His inner life with us through His Body and Blood, through the sacraments, through scripture, through everything good and beautiful. In this new Year of the Lord 2020, may God enrich us with His blessings.