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January 4, 2009: The Epiphany

Frankincense is an incense made from an aromatic gum resin from various Asian and African trees. It was used in religious ceremonies and often by the Jews in temple services. It is still burned in various churches today.

” …the star that they (the Magi) had seen at its rising went ahead of them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then opening their treasure chests they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)

The magi, or astrologers, were most likely from Persia, known today as Iran, and traveled a long distance to see the infant Jesus. The gifts they gave Jesus had special meaning because they were gifts that would be offered to a king (gold), to a priest (incense), and as burial ointment (myrrh) for one who would die. These astrologers from the East were not Jewish. This feast reminds us that Jesus came for all people. He grew up and was Jewish. We who follow him as disciples are Christians. But Jesus was sent into the world for people of every religion and all people, even those who have no religious affiliation. He is Light for all the nations. The feast of the Epiphany is as important to people in other parts of the world as Christmas is to us. It should be no surprise that many people around the world exchange gifts on Epiphany rather than on Christmas Day.


This is a perfect time of the year to learn about the customs of people around the world, especially related to Christmas and Epiphany. Research Christmas customs in different parts of the world during these final vacation days. If you have classmates from Middle Eastern countries ask them, when you return to school, how they celebrated over the holiday break. On this feast pray in thanks for Jesus who is the Light of the World. Share the Light of Jesus in you with those around you.

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Sister Mary Beth Klingel

Sister Mary Beth is currently ministering as the Guest Services Coordinator in Woodhaven, a Retreat and Guest House. In addition to many liturgical involvements, she also is a volunteer visitor in Providence Health Care. Previously she served for 10 years on the SP leadership team general officer on the leadership team of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She has previously served as an elementary school teacher, pastoral minister and director of novices.

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