Continuing this series on the readings from the old Office of the Octave of the Epiphany, today's homily comes from Pope St Gregory the Great:
The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is the fitting gift to a King, frankincense is offered in sacrifice to God, and with myrrh are embalmed the bodies of the dead. By the gifts, therefore, which they presented unto Him, the wise men set forth three things concerning Him unto Whom they offered them; by the gold, that He was King; by the frankincense, that He was God; and by the myrrh, that He was to die. There are some heretics who believe Him to be God, but confess not His Kingly dominion over all things; these offer unto Him frankincense, but refuse Him gold. There are some others who admit that He is King, but deny that He is God; these present unto Him gold, but will not give Him frankincense.
There are some other heretics who profess that Christ is both God and King, but not that He took a dying nature; these offer Him gold and frankincense, but not myrrh for the Manhood. Let us, however, present gold unto the new-born Lord, acknowledging His universal Kingship; let us offer unto Him frankincense, confessing that He Who hath been made manifest unto us in time, is God before time was; let us give unto Him myrrh, believing that He Who cannot suffer as touching His Godhead, was made capable of death as touching the manhood which He shareth with us.
There is also another signification in this gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is a type of wisdom; as saith Solomon x In the mouth of the wise abideth a treasure to be desired. Frankincense, which is burnt in honour of God, is a figure of prayer; witness the words of the Psalmist: Let my prayer be set forth as incense before thee. By myrrh is represented the putting to death of the body; as where the holy Church saith of her labourers who strive for God even unto death My hands dropped with myrrh.