Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

        John Gregory continues his comprehensive meditation on the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary and a greater appreciation of Mary's role in salvation and how, through the Nativity of her Divine Son, and in cooperation with the chosen Joseph, She cooperated with God's call to bear all things in love, silence and obedience to God in all things for His greater honor and glory.

          "It must have been frustrating for both Mary and Joseph - for they have been on a long journey and they cannot get a room anywhere. Our Lady, trusting in God's filial love, and resigned to His will, must be thinking - this is it; I am going to give birth in the streets. They find a stable (a cave) filled with hey and dung. For the Lord embraces all. He does not just take the convenient easy route. He does not try to avoid suffering. He became man like us in every way except sin. As an adult He would have no place to rest His head. That small tender head that rested on Mary's bosom is born in the cold, yet surrounded by the warmth of the love of His parents. Have we room to complain when things seem unfair for us?"

    On this mystery there are so many thoughts to consider for the scope of the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is awe-inspiring.

    "And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child." (Luke 2:1-5)

          Caesar Augustus was the Roman emperor at this time, reigning from 30 B.C. to A.D. 14. He is known to have commissioned various censuses, of which could well be that referred to by the evangelist. Since Rome normally respected local usages, censuses were carried out in line with Jewish custom whereby every house holder went to his place of origin to be listed in the census. (Navarre commentary)

    We have not commented on Saint Joseph yet (arguably the greatest Saint after Our Lady, though personally I put Saint John the Baptist in that spot). Who was Joseph? "A just man" (Matthew 1:19). I could write what we have traditionally believed about him. But let's face it. The Navarre commentary (though often filled with flowery, close to meaningless drivel in many places) does a far better job when elaborating upon the facts, than I can, using Scripture to back their points and referring to preconciliar authorites often. The following commentary will give you a good idea on just what it means to be called a just man by the evangelist that happens to be writing none other than the inspired word of God.

          Joseph considered his spouse to be holy despite the signs that she was going to have a child. He was therefore faced with a situation he could not explain. Precisely because he was trying to do God's will, he felt obliged to put her away; but to shield her from public shame he decided to send her away quietly.

          Mary's silence is admirable. Her perfect surrender to God even leads her to the extreme of not defending her honor or innocence. She prefers to suffer suspicion and shame rather than reveal the work of grace in her. Faced with a fact that was inexplicable in human terms she abandons herself confidently to the love and providence of God. God certainly submitted the holy souls of Joseph and Mary to a severe trial. We ought not be surprised if we also undergo difficult trials in the course of our lives. We ought to trust in God during them, and remain faithful to him, following the example they gave us. (Navarre)

    " And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered" (Luke 2:6)

    We are getting down to it now! Are we not? Dream with me for a moment, if you will. Can you picture the silent reverent anticipation of the Angels as they await the coming of the Lord? Maybe even the animals, in their way, anticipate something spectacular is about to happen. Perhaps even the flowers and trees wait in anticipation remembering He who created all will be in their midst. As the earth thundered and shook when He took His last breath, now it is silent and still - for their Maker is here.

    Praise God Almighty!!! Praise His omnipotent grandeur!!! Praise His Holy Name!! Jesus, The Anointed; our Lord is coming! The Son of David, the Root of Jesse is here!!!

    It must have been frustrating for both Mary and Joseph - for they have been on a long journey and they cannot get a room anywhere. Our Lady, trusting in God's filial love, and resigned to His will, must be thinking - this is it; I am going to give birth in the streets. They find a stable (a cave) filled with hey and dung. For the Lord embraces all. He does not just take the convenient easy route. He does not try to avoid suffering. He became man like us in every way except sin. As an adult He would have no place to rest His head. That small tender head that rested on Mary's bosom is born in the cold, yet surrounded by the warmth of the love of His parents. Have we room to complain when things seem unfair for us?

    Has there been times when Jesus wanted to enter the inn of our hearts in the form of the handicapped, poor, destitute, outcast and we had no time to let Him in, at least not now, when we are busy, when our favorite TV show is on.

    Let us make room for Him in our hearts always. In the way we smile at a stranger - with a kind word to the lonely. With a small card or gift that says I care. With a couple of bucks or some food for the homeless guy you walk by and when you have done this please, please, pray that I do the same, all for the love of God, never for our personal satisfaction but to honor the humble Christ Child Who exhibited the humility we need to express through our spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

          Her firstborn. The meaning is, not that she had afterward any other child; but it is a way of speech among the Hebrews, to call them also the firstborn, who are the only children.

          Till she brought forth her firstborn son (Matthew 1:25). From these words Helvidius and other heretics most impiously inferred that the blessed Virgin Mary had other children besides Christ: but Saint Jerome shews, by divers examples, that this expression of the Evangelist was a manner of speaking usual among the Hebrews, to denote by the word until, only what is done, without any regard to the future. Thus it is said, Genesis 8.6 and 7, that Noe sent forth a raven, which went forth, and did not return till the waters were dried up on the earth. That is, did not return any more. Also Isaias 46: 4, God says: I am till you grow old. Who dare infer that God should then cease to be. Also in the first book of Machabees 5.54, And they went up to mount Sion with joy and gladness, and offered holocausts, because not one of them was slain till they had returned in peace. That is, not one was slain before or after they had returned. - God saith to his divine Son: Sit on My right hand till I make thy enemies thy footstool. Shall he sit no longer after his enemies are subdued? Yea and for all eternity. Saint Jerome also proves by Scripture examples, that an only begotten son, was also called firstborn, or first begotten: because according to the law, the firstborn males were to be consecrated to God: Sanctify unto Me, saith the Lord, every firstborn that openeth the womb among the children of Israel, & c. Ex. 13.2. (Douay Rheims commentary)

          "First-born son": it is usual for Sacred Scripture to refer to the first male child as "the first-born" whether or not there were other brothers (cf., for example, Exodus 13:2; 13:13; Num 15:8; Hebrews 1:6). The same practice is to be found in ordinary speech; take, for example, this inscription dating from approximately the same time as Christ was born, which was found near Tell-el-Jedvieh (in Egypt) in 1922, which states that a woman named Arsinoe died when giving birth to "her first-born son". Otherwise, as Saint Jerome explains in his letter Adversus Helvidium, 10, "if only he were first-born who was followed by other brothers, he would not deserve the rights of the first-born, which the Law lays down, until the other had been born" - which would be absurd, since the Law ordains that those first-born should be "ransomed" within a month of their birth (cf. Numbers 18:16).

          However, Jesus Christ is first-born in a much deeper sense independent of natural or biological considerations - which Saint Bede describes in these words, summarizing a long tradition of the Fathers of the Church: "Truly the Son of God, who was made manifest in the flesh, belongs to a more exalted order not only because he is the Only-begotten of the Father by virtue of the excellence of his divinity; he is also first-born of all creatures by virtue of his fraternity with men: concerning this (his primogeniture) it is said: 'For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born among many brethren' (Romans 8:29). And concerning the former (his being the Only-begotten) it is said 'we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father' (John 1:14). Thus, He is only-begotten by the substance of the Godhead, and first-born through His assumption of humanity; first-born by grace, only-begotten by nature. This is why He is called brother and Lord: brother, because He is the first-born; Lord, because He is the Only-begotten" (In Lucae Evangelium expositio, in loc.).

          Christian Tradition teaches, as a truth of faith, that Mary remained a virgin after Christ's birth, which is perfectly in keeping with Christ's status as her first-born. See, for example, these words of the Lateran Council of 649:

        "If anyone does not profess according to the holy Fathers that in the proper and true sense the holy, ever-Virgin, Immaculate Mary is the Mother of God, since in this last age not with human seed but of the Holy Spirit she properly and truly conceived the divine Word, who was born of God the Father before all ages and gave him birth without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after his birth: let such a one be condemned" (canon 3). (Navarre)

          The Messiah is born, the Son of God and our Savior. "He made Himself a child [...] to enable you to become a perfect man, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes to free you from the bonds of death […]. He came down on earth to enable you to rise up to heaven; he had no place in the inn so that you might have many mansions in heaven: He, being rich, became poor for our sake - Saint Paul says (2 Corinthians 8:9) - so as to enrich us with his poverty […]. The tears of this crying child purify men, they wash away my sins" (Saint Ambrose).

    "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7)

    Mary with her meager means does everything possible to care for her child. The gift of motherhood is one of the greatest, most vital and now, most unappreciated gifts in the world. We have couples that desperately want children and cannot and we have couples who have children and kill them. Is this how God wants things to be? Is this what Jesus would want? Ninety percent of the media is pro 'choice' death and they have warped the mind of Americans. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; do not be carried away by the strange teachings of kill first and ask questions later.

    I must also mention the omni-present forgiveness of God for all that are truly repentant and seek His forgiveness through the means He has made available to us. There is not a sin that God will not forgive apart from final impenitence and despair of His mercy which is the sin against the Holy Ghost. So for those who have had an abortion and feel terrible about it - there is always forgiveness - through the Confessional if you are Catholic and the best way you see fit if you are not...preferably through prayer and, of course, once you realize that the Catholic Church is the one and only Church Christ founded and whom He promised He would be with until the end of time, then it is incumbent upon you to be converted and join Her.

    Also those of you who have had an abortion and are in denial about the evilness of the act and do not believe you need forgiveness I would suggest some one on one time

    with God. Know that you can not fully heal from this until you have accepted it for what it was and ask forgiveness from your child (perhaps giving him a name) and from God. If you keep this bottled in and try to rationalize it away it will come out badly eventually.

    Many will be surprised to know that the best pro-life advocates are the ones who have had abortions or worked in the abortion industry. A case of Pharisee Saul becoming Saint Paul who then starts to make up for lost time and their past sins I suppose with a "I was responsible for (however many) deaths and now I will spend the rest of my life saving lives." mentality.

    "In unspeakable joy Mary gathers to her bosom the Flower of her Virginity."

    This quote comes from a Rosary booklet I had and is a quote that is not found in Scripture. Heretics are fond of saying; "If it isn’t in the Bible then it isn’t true." – when referring to Sacred Tradition. To deny that Our Lady held her Son and our Lord in her arms, as I am sure you know, would be ludicrous. Yet, not only would some claim that you do not have to believe this is so, but some would even go so far as to say you should not believe it because it is not in the Bible.

    Let's reflect on this for a moment. Though the above meditation is not quoted word for word in the Bible it most certainly is implied. Much like the word Trinity is not in the Bible but we must certainly believe in the Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

    Saint John himself in the last verse of his gospel proclaims that there are many things which Jesus (let alone Mary and the Apostles) said and did that are not in the Bible (John 21:25). Would we deny that some things Jesus said and did during the course of His public ministry were not a significant factor in salvation history? Of course they were. But the inspired writers limit themselves, out of necessity, to the peaks, or only what could be called a "sufficient amount" of salvation history for us, so that believing we might be saved.

    An example on how Sacred Tradition can be handed down to us orally by the Apostles and their successors would be when Saint Paul quotes Jesus as saying, "It is more blessed to give than receive." Search the gospels. You will not find Jesus saying that anywhere in Holy Writ. Does that mean He did not say that? Of course not. Then how could of Saint Paul known that Jesus said that years after Jesus died when it wasn't in the Bible? The Apostles told him. Sacred Tradition - the handing on of the oral or written transmission of the faith outside of Scripture is one way to put it. But actually it is Sacred Tradition (as opposed to "the tradition of men") that gave us the Bible itself. It was God, acting through the Church, in an infallible manner that decided which books belonged and which books did not. The Bible itself does not tell us which books are inspired and which are not.

    Following are more verses regarding our Lady's Perpetual Virginity;

  • Luke 1:34 How can this be, since I do not know man.
  • Luke 2:41-51 - age 12, Jesus evidently only son of Mary.
  • Mark 6:3 - "the son of Mary" not "a son of Mary".
  • Matthew 27:56 - Mary the mother of James & Joseph (called brothers of Jesus) is also
  • John 19:25 - Mary the wife of Clopas.
  • John 19:26 - entrusted Mary to John, not a younger sibling.
  • John 7:3-4 - brothers advise like elders: "go to Judea, manifest self" unthinkable for younger siblings (see next verse).
  • Mark 3:21 - set out to seize him, "he is out of his mind". More "untils" (for those who try to use Matthew 1:25 to "prove" that Mary is not ever-Virgin as the Church has always taught) that do not imply the reverse happened afterwards.
  • Matthew 28:20 - I am with you always, even till the consummation of the world. (and after)
  • 1 Timothy 4:13 - until I arrive, attend to reading, teaching ... (but don't end all reading, teaching and so on after I arrive)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:25 - He must reign until His enemies are underfoot. (and after I hope)
  • Luke 1:80 - John in desert until day of his manifestation (and after). Firstborn can be the only born.
  • Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:12 - consecrate first-born that opens womb.
  • Exodus 34:20 - first-born among your sons you shall redeem.

    Our Lord allowed Himself to be born into a very poor family. I believe this is an example given to us by Jesus of detachment from worldly pleasures and material goods.

    I believe that if we can come to a fuller understanding of the meaning of detachment, we can come to a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Basically, as far as I know, what this means is that we should have our heart set on God above all other things. When you see yourself for what you are compared to God and what you would be if it were not for God. This is not hard to do when you think of yourself, then think of all the people in the world, then think of all the people that ever existed and will exist (if He stopped thinking of us for an instant we would cease to exist - it is mind-boggling to try to comprehend how each of us, individually, are ALWAYS on His mind as it were) then think of the universe and picture how small you are in comparison and how the universe itself is merely a blip on God's radar screen - yet He became man and died for our sins - for each and everyone one of us - so that we might be able to spend eternity with Him when many times we have deserved Hell and would be there right now were it not for our King.

    Before I hand this over to the experts I believe we first need to understand that detachment from earthly goods does not "necessarily" mean to do without them completely. Although my hat is off to anyone who has taken a strict vow of poverty and literally has given up every thing, except a meager amount of food and drink, clothes and shelter. They are imitating in a most perfect way, (as long as they are charitable, doing good and avoiding evil to the best of their abilities), Jesus Christ, who had no place to rest His head, fasted for great lengths of time, commanded His disciples not even to carry a staff in their hands, nor extra clothing or food, but to trust in His providence. Not to mention John the Baptist, who wore "a" sheepskin garment and fasted on locus and honey, whom Jesus proclaimed as being "greater than any man born of women."

    That being said, as mentioned above, detachment from earthly goods does not "necessarily" mean to do without them completely. We are to use the earthly goods that God has provided us with only as a means to a greater good not as and end in and of themselves. This would be a form of idolatry. "Where your treasure is, there too your heart will be." We need to truly reflect on whether Jesus is really the most important part of our life. It is easy enough to say it. And unfortunately, it is easy enough to believe it, even when it is not true. That is why we need to seriously reflect upon this.

    For instance, is the most important thing in our lives during the Christmas season what party we are going to go to? And perhaps even more importantly to us, how we are going to look, what clothes we are going to wear, how others are going to perceive us. These things can be important, especially if we are trying to lead others to Christ as opposed to trying to lead others into sin, because sometimes, it seems, the better you look (regarding the clothes you wear and how well you are groomed - John the Baptist perhaps being the exception) the more seriously people take you. I'm not sure if it should be that way. But I am afraid that it is that way. But hopefully, what will be more important and lasting is, if once we get to that party, we will make a point of talking to the person sitting by themselves or saying a kind word to someone we have had a tiff with and whom we have not talked to for the past couple weeks, most probably for a reason so ludicrous that if we took time to reflect on why we are shunning a certain individual we would laugh our heads off. Christmas is not about parties and getting drunk; not to mention the fact that getting obliterated out of your mind probably is using alcohol as an end - passing out, fighting, promiscuity, saying something you regret - rather than a means to a greater good - relaxing social intercourse with our neighbor - so as to be a little less inhibited about encouraging them, letting them know they are important, leading them closer to Our Lord, for instance. Keeping in mind that if you are slurring your words and tripping all over yourself while talking about Our Lord you may not be taken as seriously as when your thoughts are coherent. And you could easily cause scandal. Be pure in mind, body and soul and you cannot go wrong in pleasing the Christ Child and His loving Mother.

    "And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manager. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will." (Luke 2:10-14)

    Saint Augustine comments: "The shepherds were Israelites; the Magi, Gentiles. The first lived near-by; the latter, far away. Yet both came to the cornerstone, Christ.".

    Saint Thomas explains, why the birth of Christ was revealed through the angels: "What is in itself hidden needs to be manifested, but not what is in itself manifest. The flesh of him who was born was manifest, but his Godhead was hidden, and therefore it was fitting that this birth should be made known by angels, who are ministers of God. This was why a certain brightness accompanied the angelic apparition, to indicate that he who was just born 'reflects the glory of the Father' (Hebrews 1:3)".

    "And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord has shewed to us. And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manager. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds." (Luke 2:15-18)

          "The shepherds were not content with believing in the happy event which the angel proclaimed to them and which, full of wonder, they saw for a fact; they manifested their joy not only to Mary and Joseph but to everyone and, what is more, they tried to engrave it on their memory. 'And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.' And why would they not have wondered, seeing on earth him who is in heaven, and earth and heaven reconciled; seeing that ineffable Child who joined what was heavenly-divinity-and what was earthly-humanity-creating a wonderful covenant through this union. Not only were they in awe at the mystery of the Incarnation, but also at the great testimony born by the shepherds, who could not have invented something they had not heard and who publish the truth with a simple eloquence" (Photius).

          The shepherds hasten because they are full of joy and eager to see the Saviour. Saint Ambrose comments: "No one seeks Christ halfheartedly." Earlier on, the evangelist observed that our Lady, after the Annunciation, "went in haste" to see Saint Elizabeth (Luke 1:39). A soul who has given God entry rejoices that God has visited him and his life acquires a new energy. (Navarre)

    "When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the Prophet: And thou Bethlehem and land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have fond him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country." (Matthew 2:1-12)

          "King Herod": four different Herods are mentioned in the New Testament. The first is Herod the Great, referred to in this passage and in the next; the second, his son, Herod Antipas, who had Saint John the Baptist beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12) and who abused our Lord during his passion (Luke 23:7-11); the third, Herod Agrippa I, a nephew of Herod the Great, who executed the Apostle Saint James the Greater (Acts 12:1-3), imprisoned Saint Peter (Acts 12:4-7), and died suddenly and mysteriously (Acts 12:20-23). The fourth, Herod Agrippa II, was Herod Agrippa I's son. It was before him that Saint Paul answered Jewish accusations when he was prisoner in Caesarea (Acts 25:23).

          Herod the Great, who appears here, was the son of non-Jewish parents. He came to power with the aid and as a vassal of the Romans. He was a consummate politician and among other things he rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem on a lavish scale. Herod the Great had a persecution complex; everywhere he says rivals to his throne. He was notorious for his cruelty: he killed over half of his ten wives, some of his children and many people of standing. This information derives largely from the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote towards the end of the first century, and it confirms the cruel picture drawn in the Gospels.

          "Wise men": these were learned men, probably from Persia, who devoted themselves to the study of the stars. Since they were not Jews, they can be considered to be the very first Gentiles to receive the call to salvation in Christ. The adoration of the wise men forms part of the very earliest documented tradition: the scene is already depicted at the beginning of the second century in the paintings in the catacombs of Saint Priscilla in Rome.

          The Jews had made known throughout the East their hope of a Messiah. The wise men knew about this expected Messiah, king of the Jews. According to ideas widely accepted at the time, this sort of person, because of his significance in world history would have a star connected with his birth. God made use of these ideas to draw to Christ these representatives of the Gentiles who would later be converted.

          "The star had been hidden from them so that, on finding themselves without their guide, they would have no alternative but to consult the Jews. In this way the birth of Jesus would be made known to all" (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily on Saint Matthew, 7)

          Saint John Chrysostom also points out that "God calls them by means of the things they are most familiar with; and he shows them a large and extraordinary star so that they would be impressed by its size and beauty" (Homily on Saint Matthew, 6). God called the wise men in the midst of their ordinary occupations, and he still calls people in that way. He called Moses when he was shepherding his flock (Exodus 3:1-3), Elisha the prophet plowing his land with oxen (1 Kings 19:19-20), Amos looking after his herd (Amos 7:15).

          In all Jewish circles at the time of Jesus, the hope was widespread that the Messiah would come soon. The general idea was that he would be a king, like a new and even greater David. Herod's worry is therefore all the more understandable: he governed the Jews with the aid of the Romans and cruelly and jealously guarded his crown. Due to his political ambition and his lack of a religious sense, Herod saw a potential Messiah-King as a dangerous rival to his own worldly power.

          In the time of our Lord, both Herod's monarchy and the occupying Romans (through their procurators) recognized the Sanhedrin as the representative body of the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin was, therefore, the nation's supreme council which ruled on day-to-day affairs, both religious and civil. The handling of the more important questions needed the approval of either the king (under Herod's monarchy) or the Roman procurator (at the time of the direct Roman occupation of Palestine). Following Exodus 24:1-9 and Numbers 11:16, the Sanhedrin was composed of 71 members presided over by the high priest. The members were elected from three groupings: 1) the chief priests, that is, the leaders of the principal priestly families; it was these families who appointed the high priest (the chief priests also included anybody who had formerly held the high priesthood); 2) the elders, or the leaders of the most important families; 3) the scribes, who were teachers of the Law or experts on legal and religious matters; the majority of these scribes belonged to the party or school of the Pharisees.

          In this passage of Saint Matthew only the first and third of the above groups are mentioned. This is understandable since the elders would have no authority in the matter of the birth of the Messiah - a purely religious question.

          The prophecy referred to in this passage is Micah 5:1. It is worth noting that Jewish tradition interpreted this prophecy as predicting the Messiah's exact place of birth and as referring to a particular person. The second text thus teaches us once more that the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

          Herod tried to find out exactly where the Child was - not, of course, to adore him, as he said, but to dispose of him. Such was Herod's exclusively political view of things. Yet neither his shrewdness nor his wickedness could prevent God's plans from being fulfilled. Despite Herod's ambition and his scheming, God's wisdom and power were going to bring salvation about.

          The gifts they offered-gold, frankincense and myrrh-were those most valued in the East. People feel the need to give gifts to God to show their respect and faith. Since they cannot give themselves as a gift, which is what they would wish, they give instead what is most valuable and dear to them.

          The prophets and the Psalmists foretold that the Kings of the earth would pay homage to God at the time of the Messiah (Isaiah 49:23). They would offer him their treasures (Isaiah 60:5) and adore him (Psalm 72:10-15). Through this action of the wise men and the offering of their gifts to Jesus, these prophecies begin to be fulfilled.

          The council of Trent expressly quotes this passage when it underlines the veneration that ought to be given to Christ in the Eucharist: "The faithful of Christ venerate this most holy sacrament with the worship of latria which is due to the true God…. For in this sacrament we believe that the same God is present whom the eternal Father brought into the world, saying of him, 'Let all God's angels worship him' (Hebrews 1:6 cf. Psalm 97:7). It is the same God whom the Magi fell down and worshipped (cf. Matthew 2:11) and finally, the same God whom the Apostles adored in Galilee as Scripture says (cf. Matthew 28:17)".

          Saint Gregory Nazianzen has also commented on this verse as follows: "Let us remain in adoration; and to him, who, in order to save us, humbled himself to such a degree of poverty as to receive our body, let us offer not only incense, gold and myrrh (the first as God, the second as King, and the third as one who sought death for our sake), but also spiritual gifts, more sublime than those which can be seen with the eyes." (Navarre)

    The involvement of the wise men in the events at Bethlehem ends with yet another act of respectful obedience and cooperation with God's plans when they go back another way to avoid telling Herod the whereabouts of the Child. Christians also should be receptive to the specific grace and mission God has given them. They should persevere in this even if it means having to change any personal plans they may have made.

John Gregory

        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373