St Gregory the Great offered a homily in the Basilica of St Peter in Rome on 6 January 591. Here is part of it: ‘Magi offer gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold suited a king well; incense was presented to God as a sacrifice; and it is with myrrh that one embalms the bodies of the deceased. The magi proclaim, by their symbolic gifts, who they are worshipping. Here is gold: it is a king; here is the incense: it is a God; here is myrrh: he is a mortal. … But gold, frankincense and myrrh can also be understood differently. Gold symbolizes wisdom, as Solomon testifies: “A desirable treasure lies in the mouth of the wise man”. Incense burned in honour of God designates the power of prayer, as the psalmist testifies: “Let my prayer rise before your face like incense”. As for myrrh, it represents the mortification of our flesh; so the holy Church says, concerning her servants fighting for God until death: “My hands have distilled myrrh”’.

This feast is uniquely a feast of Adoration. May we make time on this day, before the crib, if we are able, to adore ‘in spirit and in truth’, and may God bless you as you do so.