Sunday, 3 January 2010

Gifts for the new-born King

Today's feast of the Epiphany of the Lord celebrates the fact that God revealed Himself to the nations in the person of Jesus Christ. The Liturgy makes reference to three important moments of revelation: the wedding feast at Cana, at which Jesus worked His first miracle (or 'sign', as St John's Gospel calls it); the Baptism of the Lord - the beginning of His public ministry, which has its own feast next Sunday; and the visit of the 'wise men from the East', which is the focus of the celebration at Mass.

The Cathedral's crib, which draws a steady stream of visitors over the Christmas season, now includes figures of the three wise men. Although St Matthew does not say how many wise men visited the Lord, the number three is assumed, as he speaks of the three gifts they offered:

First, gold (seen on the right), which symbolises the kingship of the new-born child. Next, frankincense (on the left), which signifies the presence of God. In presenting this gift the wise men acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.

Finally, myrrh. This spice was used to anoint the bodies of the dead, and so points ahead to the time when Jesus will die on the cross for our salvation. In the gifts of the wise men then, we see not only the divinity of Jesus but also His humanity: the mystery of this season unfolds before our eyes.

The crib may be visited whenever the Cathedral is open (usually 8:30am-6pm each day), except during services. If you are in the area, do call in. You'll find the crib near the Christmas trees, in the baptistery, and it will remain here until next Sunday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which marks the end of the Christmas season.