Mystery of the Vocation of the Magi
A reflection each day during the Octave of the Epiphany
by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1870
January 7th: The Second Day
Within the Octave of the Epiphany
A Solemnity of such importance as the Epiphany could not be without an Octave. The only Octaves, during the year, that are superior to this of the Epiphany, are those of Easter and Pentecost. It has a privilege which the Octave of Christmas has not; for no Feast can be kept during the Octave of the Epiphany, unless it be that of a Patron of first class; whereas, Feasts of a double and semi-double rite are admitted during the Christmas Octave. It would even seem, judging from the ancient Sacramentaries, that, anciently, the two days immediately following the Epiphany were Days of Obligation, as were the Monday and Tuesday of Easter and Whitsuntide. The names of the Stational Churches are given, where the Clergy and Faithful of Rome assembled on these two days.
In order that we may the more fully enter into the spirit of the Church, during this glorious Octave, we will contemplate, each day, the Mystery of the Vocation of the Magi, and we will enter, together with them, into the holy Cave of Bethlehem, there to offer our gifts to the Divine Infant, to whom the Star has led the Wise Men.
These Magi are the harbingers of the conversion of all nations to the Lord their God; they are the Fathers of the Gentiles in the faith of the Redeemer that is come; they are the Patriarchs of the human race regenerated. They arrive at Bethlehem, according to the tradition of the Church, three in number; and this tradition is handed down by St. Leo, by St. Maximus of Turin, by St. Cesarius of Aries, and by the Christian paintings in the Catacombs of Rome, which paintings belong to the period of the Persecutions.
Thus is continued in the Magi the Mystery prefigured by the three just men at the very commencement of the world: Abel, who, by his death, was the figure of Christ; Seth, who was the father of the children of God, as distinct from the family of Cain; and Enos, who had the honor of regulating the ceremonies and solemnity to be observed in man’s worship of his Creator.
The Magi also continued, in their own person, that other Mystery of the three new parents of the human family, after the Deluge, and from whom all races have sprung: Sem, Cham, and Japheth, the Sons of Noe.
And, thirdly, we behold in the Magi that third Mystery of the three fathers of God’s chosen people: Abraham, the Father of believers; Isaac, another figure of Christ immolated; and Jacob, who was strong against God (Gen. xxxii. 28), and was the father of the twelve Patriarchs of Israel.
All these were but the receivers of the Promise, although the hope of mankind, both according to nature and grace, rested on them; they, as the Apostle says of them, saluted the accomplishment of that Promise afar-off (Heb. xi. 13). The Nations did not follow them, by serving the true God; nay, the greater the light that shone on Israel, the greater seemed the blindness of the Gentile-world. The three Magi, on the contrary, come to Bethlehem, and they are followed by countless generations. In them, the figure becomes the grand reality, thanks to the mercy of our Lord, who having come to find what was lost, vouchsafed to stretch out His arms to the whole human race, for the whole was lost.
These happy Magi were also invested with regal power, as we shall see further on; as such, they were prefigured by those three faithful Kings, who were the glory of the throne of Juda, the earnest maintainers among the chosen people of the traditions regarding the future Deliverer, and the strenuous opponents of idolatry: David, the sublime type of the Messias; Ezechias, whose courageous zeal destroyed the idols; and Josias, who re-established the Law of the Lord, which the people had forgotten.
And if we would have another type of these holy pilgrims, who come from a far distant country of the Gentiles to adore the King of Peace, and offer Him their rich presents–the sacred Scripture puts before us the Queen of Saba, also a Gentile, who hearing of the fame of Solomon’s wisdom, whose name means the Peaceful, visits Jerusalem, taking with her the most magnificent gifts–camels laden with gold, spices, and precious stones–and venerates, under one of the sublimest of his types, the Kingly character of the Messias.
Thus, O Jesus! during the long and dark night, in which the justice of thy Father left this sinful world, did the gleanings of grace appear in the heavens, portending the rising of that Sun of thine own Justice, which would dissipate the shadows of death, and establish the reign of Light and Day. But, now, all these shadows have passed away; we no longer need the imperfect light of types: it is Thyself we now possess; and though we wear not royal crowns upon our heads, like the Magi and the Queen of Saba, yet Thou receivest us with love. The very first to be invited to Thy Crib, there to receive Thy teachings, were simple Shepherds. Every member of the human family is called to form part of Thy court. Having become a Child, Thou hast opened the treasures of Thine infinite wisdom to all men. What gratitude do we not owe for this gift of the light of Faith, without which we should know nothing, even whilst flattering ourselves that we know all things! How narrow, and uncertain, and deceitful, is human science, compared with that which has its source in Thee! May we ever prize this immense gift of Faith, this Light, O Jesus! which Thou makest to shine upon us, after having softened it under the veil of Thy humble Infancy. Preserve us from pride, which darkens the soul’s vision, and dries up the heart. Confide us to the keeping of Thy Blessed Mother; and may our love attach us forever to Thee, and her maternal eye ever watch over us lest we should leave Thee, O Thou the God of our hearts!
Hymn: Quicumque Christum quaeritis
O ye, that are in search of Jesus, raise up your eyes aloft: there shall you see the sign of His eternal glory.
This Star, which surpasseth the sun’s disc in beauty and light, announces that God has come upon the earth clothed in human flesh.
It is not a Star, that is made to serve the night, following the monthly changes of the moon; but it seems to preside over the heavens and mark the course of the day.
‘Tis true, that Polar Stars are lights that never set; yet are they often hid beneath the clouds.
But this Star is never dimmed; this Star is never extinguished; nor does a coming cloud o’ershadow her blaze of light.
Let comet, the harbinger of ill and meteors formed by Dog-star’s vapourous heat, now fade away before this God’s own light.