The Treasures of the Magi, a reflection by Br. Peter Damian Tran, a monk of  New Clairvaux Abbey for the Solemnity of the Epiphany:

“And on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. They opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Mt 2:11).

First of all, the Magi present themselves before the Infant Jesus: “They prostrated themselves and worshiped Him.” They offer the treasures of their hearts to the Lord before they proceed to open the physical treasures. Opening the treasures of the heart comes before opening the actual treasures.

Then the Magi offer three gifts to the new-born King: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These symbolic gifts brought by the Magi reveal hidden mysteries concerning Christ. To offer gold is to proclaim and honor Him as King, to offer frankincense is to adore His divinity, and to offer myrrh is to acknowledge His mortality because Christ assumed our mortal nature. Therefore, the gift of myrrh signifies his coming Passion.

Furthermore, by opening the actual treasures before Christ, the Magi refer to what man is capable of. By offering their gold, they confess Him to be King, and therefore they open up the treasure of the human ability to believe – the Treasure of Faith. By offering their frankincense, they worship Him as God. Thus they open up the Treasure of Adoration, the human ability to surrender and turn over one’s whole being to the one true God. By offering their myrrh, they open up the Treasure of Evangelization by proclaiming His Passion – the invitation to participate in the work of salvation to the world.

Well, we may ask ourselves: What treasures do we have? What gifts do we offer to our Lord then?

In the view of the Church’s Fathers, these three gifts are symbolic of three gifts we should offer to our Lord: the gift of gold signifies our love, the gift of frankincense signifies our prayers, and the gift of myrrh signifies our mortification. Our Father Saint Bernard found it helpful for his spiritual life to keep a bundle of myrrh in his private room. I think he did this to remind him of the Passion of Christ and the mortification of his prayer life as a Cistercian monk.