From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
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 these 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 produces; 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 honour the sacred number of the Persons in the divine Essence, as likewise to express the triple character of 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 and 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 that 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? Whilst 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 honours 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 Saviour! 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.
Let us borrow the language of the ancient Liturgies, in order to give expression to the sentiments awakened in us by all these ineffable Mysteries. Let us begin with this Hymn on the Nativity of our Lord left us by the saintly Bishop of Poitiers, Venantius Fortunatus.
Agnoscat omne sæculum
Venisse vitæ præmium;
Post hostis asperi jugum
Esaias quæ cecinit
Completa sunt in Virgine:
Sanctus replevit Spiritus.
Maria ventre concipit
Verbi fidelis semine:
Quem totus orbis non capit
Portant puellæ viscera.
Radix Jesse floruit,
Et Virga fructum edidit;
Fœcunda partum protulit,
Et Virgo mater permanet.
Præsepe poni pertulit
Qui lucis auctor exstitit,
Cum Patre cœlos condidit,
Sub Matre pannos induit.
Legem dedit qui sæculo,
Cujus decem præcepta sunt,
Dignando factus est homo
Sub Legis esse vinculo.
Adam vetus quod polluit
Adam novus hoc abluit:
Tumens quod ille dejicit
Humillimus hic erigit.
Jam nata lux est et salus,
Fugata nox et victa mors,
Venite gentes, credite,
Deum Maria protulit.
Let all ages acknowledge
that he is come who is the reward of life.
After mankind had carried the yoke of its cruel enemy,
our Redemption appeared.
What Isaias foretold
has been fulfilled in the Virgin;
an Angel announced the mystery to her,
and the Holy Ghost filled her by his power.
Mary conceived in her womb,
for she believed in the word that was spoken to her:
the womb of a youthful maid
holds him whom the whole earth cannot contain.
The Root of Jesse has given its flower,
and the Branch has borne its fruit:
Mary has given birth to Jesus,
and the Mother is still the spotless Virgin.
He that created the light
suffers himself to be laid in a manger;
he that, with the Father, made the heavens,
is now wrapt by his Mother's hand in swaddling-clothes.
He that gave to the world
the ten commandments of the law,
deigns, by becoming Man,
to be under the bond of the law.
What the old Adam defiled,
that the new Adam has purified;
and what the first cast down by his pride,
the second raised up again by his humility.
Light and salvation are now born to us,
night is driven away, and death is vanquished:
oh! come, all ye people, believe;
God is born of Mary.
The Mozarabic Breviary contains the following eloquent prayer.
Deus, Dei Filius, Patris ineffabilis Virtus, qui novo sidere in Gentibus Rex regum ostenderis magnus, et in civitate illa beata appares gloriosus: quem insulæ tremunt: cui principes et nationes Gentium obsequuntur, dum tibi omnia regna cedunt, tibi regum diademata substernuntur; dignare jam gratianostris te ostendere sensibus pium, et in conversationibus manifestum: ut primitias Spiritus habentes, ea tibi semper munera dedicemus, per quæ introire beatam illam Hierusalem placitis cordibus mereamur, ut tibi mundissimum aurum nostrorum operum deferentes, regni tui mereamur esse participes. Amen.
O God, Son of God, the ineffable Power of the Father, who, by the rising of a new star, didst reveal thyself to the Gentiles as the King of kings, and now art seen in thy glory in that happy city above: O thou before whom the islands tremble, and the Gentile princes and nations bow in homage, and to whom all kingdoms are subject, and at whose feet all kings lay down their crowns: vouchsafe now, by thy grace, to show thyself in thy mercy to our souls, and manifest thyself by our lives: that having within us the firstfruits of the Spirit, we may ever offer thee such gifts as thereby to merit to enter, with hearts well-pleasing to thee, into the blessed Jerusalem, and by offering thee now the most pure gold of our works, we may deserve to be partakers of thy kingdom. Amen.
We take the following Sequence from the Paris Missal of 1584.
In excelsis canitur
Nato Regi gloria,
Per quem terræ redditur
In cœlo concordia.
Jure dies colitur
Quo nascente, nascitur
Novæ legis gratia.
Mediator nobis datus
In salutis præmium,
Non nature, sed reatus
Non amittit claritatem
Stella fundens radium,
Nec Maria castitatem,
Quis de monte lapis cæsus
Sine manu, nisi Jesus
Qui de Regum linea,
Sine carnis opere,
De carne puerperæ
Et desertum floreat:
Virga Jesse floruit.
Radix virgam, virga florem,
Virgo profert Salvatorem,
Sicut Lex præcinuit.
Radix David typum gessit:
Virga, matris quæ processit
Ex regali semine.
Flos est Puer nobis natus,
Jure flori comparatus
Præ mira dulcedine.
In præsepe reclinatur,
Cujus ortus celebratur
Cœli cives jubilant,
Dum pastores vigilant
Sub noctis silentio.
Cuncta laudes intonant
Super partum Virginis.
Lex et psalmi consonant
Angelorum et pastorum,
Stellæ simul et Magorum
Reges currunt Orientis
Ad præsepe vagientis,
Jesu puer immortalis,
Ex terreno temporalis,
Nos ab hujus vitæ malis
Tu potenter erue.
Tu, post vitam hunc mortalem,
Sive mortem hanc vitalem,
Vitam nobis immortalem
There is sung in the highest heavens:
Glory be to the newborn King,
by whom peace is restored
between heaven and earth.
Rightly do we keep
the Birthday of Jesus as a feast;
for by his birth,
the grace of the new law is born.
He, our Mediator, is given to us
to be the reward of our salvation:
he takes upon himself our nature,
refusing only to be like us in our sin.
As a star loses nothing of its brightness
by giving forth its ray;
so neither does Mary suffer the loss of her purity
by giving birth to her Son.
Who is the Stone cut from the mountain
and not by the hand of man, if not our Jesus,
who was of the line of kings.
And was born from the womb
of his Virgin-Mother,
after she had virginaily conceived?
Let the wilderness be glad,
and the desert bloom;
—the rod of Jesse has flowered.
As was foretold in the Law, the Root has yielded its Branch,
the Branch its Flower,
and the Virgin our Saviour.
The Root was the figure of David:
the Branch was the type of Mary,
who was born of a kingly race.
The Flower is the Child that is born unto us,
well likened to a flower,
by reason of his wonderful sweetness.
He, whose birth is celebrated
by the heavenly spirits,
is laid in a manger!
The citizens of heaven are in jubilee,
whilst the Shepherds are keeping
watch in the still night.
Let all creatures give forth praise
for that the Virgin has given birth to her Son.
The law and the psalms harmonize
with the writings of the Prophets.
The Angels and the Shepherds,
the Star and the Magi,
all agree in proclaiming the Birth.
The Eastern Kings run
to the Crib of the Babe
—they are the first-fruits of the Gentiles.
O Jesus, immortal Babe!
born in time because thou wouldst assume our nature,
snatch us, by thy power,
from this life's woes.
After this our mortal life,
or rather this living death,
mercifully restore unto us
that life which is immortal.
Totum mysterium ut actum est apud vos in regione vestra, aperite nunc mihi, ut amici; et quis vocabit vos, ut ad me veniretis?
Magna stella nobis apparuit, reliquis multo splendidior stellis, cujus lumine nostra terra est inflammata, et quod Rex ortus sit, nobis annuntiavit.
Nollem, vos quæso, loquamini hæc in regione nostra, ne sentientes Reges terræ, machinentur sua invidia adversus puerum.
Ne timeas, Virgo, quia omnia diademata solvet Filius tuus, eaque pessumdabit, nec sua invidia nocumentum inferre illi valebunt.Herodem timeo, lupum pollutum, ne me perturbet, gladium stringat, quo præcidat dulcem botrum adhuc immaturum.
Herodem ne timeas: per Filium enim tuum subvertetur ejus thronus, et statim atque regnabit, destruetur, et ejus diadema decidet.
Torrens sanguinis est Hierusalem, in eaque optimi quique cadunt: quare si hoc præsenserit, machinabitur in ilium; ideoque secreto loquamini, precor, et ne tumultuetis.
Torrentes omnes, et lanceæ etiam per manus Filii tui sedabuntur, et Hierosolymæ obstupescet gladius, et nisi voluerit, non cadet.
Scribæ et sacerdotes Hierusalem, qui sanguinem subdole effundere solent, excitabunt forte lethale litigium adversum me, et adversum puerum: Magi, quæso, silete.
Scribæ et sacerdotes nequáquam valebunt sua invidia Filio tuo nocere; et per ipsum solvetur eorum sacerdotium, et solemnitates eorum cessabunt.
Angelus apparuit mihi, quando concepi puerum; quod Rex sit Filius meus, et quod ab alto sit ejus diadema, et non solvetur, ipse quoque explicavit mihi ut et vobis.
Angelus igitur, quem dicis, ipse venit sub specie sideris et apparuit nobis, atque annuntiavit quod Puer major sit et splendidior stellis.
Coram vobis ecce aperio aliud arcanum, ut confirmemini; scilicet virgo peperi filium, Filiumque Dei; euntes prædicate ipsum.
Jam nos prædocuit stella, nativitatem ejus extra ordinem esse naturæ, et super omnia esse Filium tuum, eumdemque etiam Filium esse Dei.
Pacem referte in terram vestram; pax gliscat in finibus vestris: veraces veritatis nuntii habeamini in toto itinere vestro.
Pax Filii tui nos reducat incolumes in regionem nostram, ut duxit; et cum imperium ejus mundo manifestabitur, invisat terram nostram, et benedicat illi.
Gaudeat Persis vestro nuntio, exsultet Assyria vestro reditu; et quando regnum Filii mei manifestabitur, in regione vestra suum collocabit vexillum.
Tell me, I beg of you as friends, how the mystery was declared to you in your country, and who it was that told you to come to me?
A star of great size appeared to us, more brilliant far than other stars; its light illumined our land, and it was an announcement to us that the King was born.
Tell not this, I pray you, in these our parts, lest the kings of the earth should hear it, and plot, in their envy, against the Child.
Fear not, O Virgin! for thy Son shall be master of all crowns, and shall crush them; neither shall the envy of kings be able to hurt him.
I fear that unclean wolf Herod, lest perhaps he bring grief upon me, and draw his sword to cut from off its vine my sweet though not yet ripened Fruit.
Fear not Herod, for his throne shall be o'erthrown by thy Son, and his reign shall be short, and his crown shall fall from his head.
Jerusalem is a torrent of blood, and all that are good are slain; if this be known, the city will plot against my Child. I pray you, then, whisper these things, and noise them not abroad.
All blood-shedding shall be stayed, and all weapons sheathed by the hand of thy Son; Jerusalem's sword shall be stupefied, powerless to strike, unless by his consent.
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem are skilled in secret murders, and may stir up some deadly purposes against me and the Child. Be silent, Magi, I beseech you.
Not so: the envious Scribes and Pharisees shall not have power to injure thy Child; nay, he will take away their priesthood, and put an end to their solemn feasts.
An Angel appeared to me when I conceived my Babe; he told me, as he told you, that my Child is King, and that his throne is from above, and shall never have an end.
This Angel, then, of whom thou speakest, is he that appeared to us under the figure of the star, and told us that thy Son is greater and brighter than the stars.
Lo, now I will reveal to you another secret, that you may take fresh courage: I have given birth to my Child, who is the Son of God, and yet am I a Virgin. Go forth and preach his name to the nations.
All this was taught us by the Star: it told us that his birth was beyond the course of nature, and that thy Son is above all creatures, and that he is the Son of God.
Take peace back with you to your land; may peace be in your territories; may you be the truthful messengers of the Truth on all your journey.
May the peace of thy Son, which brought us hither, lead us back safe to our country; and, when his kingdom shall be declared to the world, may he visit our land, and bless it.
May Persia rejoice at your tidings, and Assyria be glad in your return; and when the kingdom of my Son shall be declared, he shall set his standard in your land.
Die XV Januarii
Molestissimis passionum insultibus, quasi tempestatibus exagitatus, et peccatorum ictibus quasi fluctibus concussus, ad indefessam protectionem tuam confugio cum affectu, o puella omni laude dignissima: miserere mei, et salva me, o Virgo perpetua.
Cum te tamquam rosam redolentem punis ille in convallibus reperisset, o inviolata; in medio tui habitavit, humanum genus suavissimo replens odore.
Dirige motus animæ meæ, o purissima, ad divina illius præcepta qui ex utero tuo coruscavit, atque a tempestate scandalorum hujus vitæ eripe me intercessionibus tuis.
Omnium Dominum Emmanuel sine viri opera peperisti, manens Virgo post partum, o Virgo mater. Eumdem incessanter exora ut ab hostium invasionibus liberentur illi qui confugiunt sub protectionem tuam.
Verbum quod æquale est in operatione et in throno Genitori suo, ex visceribus tuis corporasti, o casta; atque inde propter ineffabilem misericordiam suam, totam naturam nostram assumpsit.
Prolem tuam laudamus, o benedicta, per quam ab antiqua damnatione redempti sumus; te vero beatificamus, o divina felicitate cumulatissima; quam solam dilexit ille qui est benedictus ac supergloriosus.
Fluvium perennem nobis effundis recurrentibus ad te, o casta; cujus uberem gratiam delibantes, partum tuum laudamus, o inviolatissima, et superexaltamus in omnia sæcula.
Lucis habitacuium venter tuus factus est, per quam sedentes in tenebris viderunt lumen: unde te incessabili voce semper laudamus, o Dei Mater; et cum affectu veneramur te spem animarum nostrarum.
Tossed by the troublesome attacks of my passions, as by so many storms, and buffeted by the blows of my sins as by angry billows, I lovingly fly to thy untiring protection, O Maid most worthy of all praise. Have pity on me, and save me, O ever spotless Virgin!
When the God of purity found thee, O spotless Virgin, in the lowly valleys as the Rose that breathes forth sweet fragrance, he dwelt within thee, and filled the human race with the most delicious perfume.
Turn the faculties of my soul, O most pure one, to the divine commandments of him who shone forth from thy womb, and by thy prayers deliver me from the storm of this life's scandals.
Thou didst virginally bring forth our Emmanuel, the Lord of all, O Virgin-Mother, and didst remain a Virgin after thy delivery. Pray to him unceasingly, that they who fly to thy protection may be freed from the attacks of their enemies.
O chaste Virgin! thou didst, from thy womb, clothe with a human body him who is the Word equal to his Father in works and in majesty; from thee, by reason of his unspeakable mercy, did he assume our entire human nature.
O Blessed Mother! we praise thy Son, who redeemed us from the old curse. We bless thee, O blessed by God above all women, who art loved above all by him who is blessed and glorious above all.
Thou pourest forth an everflowing stream on us who have recourse to thee, O VirginMother! Refreshed by its plentiful grace, we praise thy Son, O purest Maid, and we extol him above all for ever.
Thy womb was made the dwelling-place of Light, whereby they saw the light that sat in darkness. Therefore do we ever praise thee with our unceasing hymns, O Mother of God, and devoutly venerate thee, the hope of our hearts.
The Church makes commemoration, to-day, of the holy Pope and Martyr Hyginus. He held the Apostolic Chair under the reign of Antoninus, and closed his four years’ 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 honour 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 timuit; fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.
Infirmitatem nostram respice, omnipotens Deus, et quia pondus propriæactionis gravat, beati Hygini Martyris tui atque Pontificis intercessio gloriosa nos protegat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
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.
Let us Pray
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.
 St Luke i 53.
 Sermon the Fourth On the Epiphany.