Excerpted from The Church’s Year, by Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine

Why is this day called Epiphania Domini, or Apparition of the Lord?

Because the Church wishes to bring before our mind the three great events in the life of Christ, when He made known to man His divinity, the coming of the wise men from the East, through whom He revealed Himself to the Gentiles as the Son of God; His baptism, on which occasion His Divinity was made known to the Jews, and His first miracle at the marriage of Cana, by which He revealed Himself to His disciples.

Why did the kings offer gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Because it was the ancient Eastern custom, never to appear without presents before a prince or king, and the three kings, as the holy Fathers universally teach, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, desired by their presents to honor Christ as God,  as king, and as man,  Of this the venerable Bede writes: “The first of the kings, Melchior, offered gold to Christ the Lord and king; the second, named Caspar, frankincense to the divinity of Christ; and the third, Balthasar, myrrh, by which was expressed that Christ the Son of man, must die.”

How can we bring similar offerings to Christ?

We offer gold to Him, when we love Him with our whole heart, and out of love to Him, present Him our will by perfect obedience and continual self-denial, as our will is our most precious treasure.  We also offer Him gold when we assist the poor by alms given in His name.  We offer Him frankincense when we devoutly and ardently pray to Him, especially when we meditate upon His omnipotence, love, goodness, justice and mercy.  We offer Him myrrh when we avoid carnal desires, mortify our evil inclinations and passions, and strive for purity of body and soul.

magi
Adoration of the Magi, Fra Angelico
1423-24
Tempera and gold on panel, 63 x 54 cm
Abegg-Stiftung, Bern