Bethlehem! of noblest cities
None can once with thee compare;
Thou alone the Lord from heaven
Didst for us Incarnate bear.

Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told His birth;
To the lands their God announcing,
Hid beneath a form of earth.

By its lambent beauty guided,
See, the Eastern Kings appear;
See them bend, their gifts to offer,
Gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.

Offerings of mystic meaning;
Incense doth the God disclose;
Gold a royal child proclaimeth;
Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.

Holy Jesus! in Thy brightness
to the gentile world displayed!
With the Father and the Spirit,
Endless praise to Thee be paid!

The Church commemorates on this feast three different mysteries, in which Jesus Christ made Himself known to man and manifested His glory; the adoration paid by the Wise Men of the East, the baptism He received from St. John, and the first miracle wrought by Him in Galilee, by changing water into wine. She dwells, however, more particularly on the first of these mysteries, and exhorts us to imitate the example of the Magi, the first fruits of the Gentiles converted to the faith, by offering to Him the gold of pure and ardent charity, the incense of fervent prayer, and the myrrh of penance and self-denial, without which we are Christians only in name.

Homily of St. Gregory the Great

Dearly beloved: As you have heard in the Gospel lesson, an earthly king was troubled when the King of Heaven was born. Earthly greatness is thus brought to confusion when the Majesty of Heaven appears. But, we ask, why is it, pray, that at the Redeemer's birth an angel appeared to the shepherds in Judea, while from the east, the Magi were led to adore Him, not by an angel, but by a star? The reason would appear to be this. To the Jews, as creatures possessing the use of reason, a reasoning being, that is an angel, speaks. The Gentiles, who do not seem to possess the use of reason, are not led to the knowledge of the Lord by a voice, but rather, by a sign. Hence, St. Paul says: Prophecies are given to believers not to unbelievers; and signs to unbelievers not to believers. Therefore the prophecies were given to the Jews, as to believers, and not unbelievers, whereas to the Gentiles, as to unbelievers, and not believers, signs were given.

Note further! It was the Apostles who preached the Redeemer--after He had reached His age of perfection--to those same Gentiles, even as a star, and not human voices proclaimed Him to the nations when He was an Infant, too young to speak. Surely common sense demands that the tongues of men should proclaim the Lord and His teaching, even as voiceless elements proclaimed Him before He had begun to speak. With all the signs which point to the birth and death of the Lord, consider how stony were the hearts of those Jews who would know Him neither through prophecies nor through miracles.

All elements in nature testified that their Creator had come. Let me indicate them in our everyday fashion. The heavens knew that He was God, for they sent a star to herald Him. The sea knew Him, for it bore up His feet upon it. The earth knew Him, and trembled when He died. The sun knew Him, and hid his light. The stones and walls knew Him, and were rent at His death. Hell knew Him, and gave up its dead. All the insensible elements of nature knew Him, but even up to this minute the hearts of the unbelieving Jews will not recognize Him as God, and--more hard than rock--will not be rent in penitence.

Homily of St. Augustine

Our Lord Jesus Christ, dearly beloved, Who from eternity is the Creator of all things, today, being born of a mother, has become for us a Savior. Today, of His own will, He is born for us in time, that he might lead us to eternal life in the Father. God is made man that man might be God. Today is the Lord of Angels become man, that man might eat the Bread of Angels.

Today is fulfilled that prophecy: Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. He Who had made others was Himself made that He might save those Who would perish. For in the psalm man confesses: Before I was humbled, I sinned. Man sinned and became guilty; the God-Man is born that He might deliver the guilty. Man indeed fell, but God descended. Man fell miserably, God descended mercifully. Man fell through pride, God descended with grace.

O miracle! O marvel! My brethren. The laws of nature are changed in man. God is born. A virgin conceives without knowing man; the Word of God weds her who knows not man. At one and the same time she is both mother and virgin--she becomes a mother, yet is undefiled. The Virgin bears a Son, yet knows not man. She is inviolate, but not barren. He alone is born without sin; the son born apart from the cooperation of man, conceived not in the concupiscence of the flesh, but through obedience of the virgin's soul.

St. Alphonsus De Liguori
The Adoration of the Magi

Jesus is born poor in a stable; the angels of heaven indeed acknowledge Him, but men abandon and forsake him on earth. Only a few shepherds come and pay him homage. But our Redeemer was desirous of communicating to us the grace of His redemption, and begins therefore to manifest Himself to the Gentiles, Who knew Him least. Therefore he sends a star to enlighten the holy Magi, in order that they may come and acknowledge and adore their Saviour. This was the first and sovereign grace bestowed upon us--our vocation to the faith; which was succeeded by our vocation to grace, of which men were deprived.

Behold the wise men, who immediately, without delay, set off upon their journey. The star accompanies them as far as the cavern where the holy Infant lies: on their arrival they enter; and what do they find? They found the child with Mary. They find a poor maiden and a poor Infant wrapped in poor swaddling-clothes, without anyone to attend on Him or assist Him. But, lo! on entering into the little shed these holy pilgrims feel a joy which they had never felt before; they feel their hearts chained to the dear little Infant which they behold. The straw, the poverty, the cries of their little Saviour--Oh, what darts of love! Oh, what blessed flames are they to their enlightened hearts ! The Infant looks upon them with a joyful countenance, and this is the mark of affection with which he accepts them amongst the first-fruits of His Redemption.

The holy kings then look at Mary, who does not speak --she remains silent; but with her blessed countenance that breathes the sweetness of paradise she welcomes them, and thanks them for having been the first to come and acknowledge Her son (as indeed He is) for their Sovereign Lord. See also how, out of reverence, they adore Him in silence, and acknowledge Him for their God, kissing His feet, and offering Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us also with the holy Magi adore our little King Jesus, and let us offer Him all our hearts.

Affections and Prayers

O amiable Infant! Though I see Thee in this cavern lying on straw poor and despised, yet faith teaches me that Thou art my God, who earnest down from heaven for my salvation. I acknowledge Thee, then, for my sovereign Lord and Saviour; but I have nothing, alas, to offer Thee. I have no gold of love, because I have loved creatures; I have loved my own caprices, but I have not loved Thee, O amiable infinite One! I have not the incense of prayer, because I have lived in a miserable state of forgetfulness of Thee. I have no myrrh of mortification, for I have often displeased Thy infinite goodness that I might not be deprived of my miserable pleasures. What then shall I offer Thee? I offer Thee my heart, filthy and poor as it is; do Thou accept it, and change it. Thou camest into the world for this purpose, to wash the hearts of men from their sins by Thy blood, and thus change them from sinners into saints. Give me, therefore, I pray Thee, this gold, this incense, and this myrrh. Give me the gold of Thy holy love; give me the spirit of holy prayer, give me the desire and strength to mortify myself in everything that displeases Thee. I am resolved to obey Thee and to love Thee; but Thou knowest my weakness, oh, give me the grace to be faithful to Thee! Most holy Virgin, thou who didst welcome with such affection and didst console the holy Magi, do thou welcome and console me also, who come to visit thy Son and to offer myself to him. O my Mother, I have great confidence in thy intercession! Do thou recommend me to Jesus. To thee do I intrust my soul and my will; bind it forever to the love of Jesus!

Litany of the Infant Jesus

Glory and praise be to Thee, O tender little Jesus. From the utmost depths of my heart I praise and adore Thee, that for love of me and of all mankind it was Thy will to lie in the manger, and to suffer such great poverty and misery. I praise and adore Thy tender limbs, and Thy tender hands and feet, and I magnify the inexpressible love which drew Thee forth from the bosom of the Heavenly Father, down to a poor and miserable stable.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us. *

God the Son, Redeemer of the world, *
God the Holy Ghost, *
Holy Trinity, one God, *
Infant Jesus, *
Infant, very God, *
Infant, Son of the living God, *
Infant, Son of the Virgin Mary, *
Infant, begotten before the morning star, *
Infant, Word made flesh, *
Infant, wisdom of Thy Father, *
Infant, purity of Thy Mother, *
Infant, only Son of Thy Father, *
Infant, only-born of Thy Mother, *
Infant, image of Thy Father, *
Infant, Creator of Thy Mother, *
Infant, splendor of Thy Father, *
Infant, honor of Thy Mother, *
Infant, equal to Thy Father, *
Infant, subject to Thy Mother, *
Infant, joy of Thy Father, *
Infant, riches of Thy Mother, *
Infant, gift of Thy Father, *
Infant, gift of Thy Mother, *
Infant, precious fruit of a Virgin, *
Infant, Creator of man, *
Infant, our God, *
Infant, our Brother, *
Infant, perfect man from Thy conception, *
Infant, Father of ages, *
Infant, eternal Word, making Thyself dumb, *
Infant, weeping in Thy crib, *
Infant, joy of paradise, *
Infant, exiled from Thy people, *
Infant, strong in weakness, *
Infant, powerful in abasement, *
Infant, treasure of grace, *
Infant, fountain of love, *
Infant, author of all the blessings of heaven, *
Infant, repairer of the evils of earth, *
Infant, head of angels, *
Infant, expectation of nations, *
Infant, joy of the shepherds, *
Infant, light of the Magi, *
Infant, salvation of children, *
Infant, hope of the just, *
Infant, teacher of doctors, *

Be merciful.
Spare us, O Infant Jesus.
Be merciful.
Graciously hear us, O Infant Jesus.

From the bondage of the children of Adam,
Deliver us, O Infant Jesus. **

From the slavery of the devil, **
From the corruption of the world. **
From the lust of the flesh, **
From the blindness of mind, **
From perversity of will, **
From our sins, **
Through Thy most pure conception, **
Through Thy humble birth, **
Through Thy tears, **
Through Thy painful circumcision, **
Through Thy glorious epiphany, **
Through Thy devout presentation, **
Through Thy most holy life, **
Through Thy poverty, **
Through Thy sorrows, **
Through Thy obedience, **
Through Thy labors, **

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Infant Jesus.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Infant Jesus.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us, O Infant Jesus.

Infant Jesus, hear us.
Infant Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray:

O Lord Jesus, Who didst vouchsafe so to annihilate the greatness of Thy Incarnate Divinity and most sacred Humanity, as to be born in time, and become a little child: grant that we may acknowledge infinite wisdom in the silence of a child, power in weakness, majesty in abasement; so that adoring Thy humiliations on earth, we may contemplate Thy glories in heaven. Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, forever and ever. Amen.