We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Sounds through the earth and skies.
Epiphany (Greek: επιφάνεια, “the appearance; miraculous phenomenon”) is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the ‘shining forth’ or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches, and included the birth of Jesus; the visit of the Magi, or Wise Men (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The date of the feast was fixed on January 6. Ancient Liturgies speak of Illuminatio, Manifestatio, Declaratio (Lighting, Manifestation, Declaration); cf. St. Matthew’s Gospel (iii, 13–17); St. Luke’s (iii, 22); and St. John’s (ii, 1–11); where the Baptism and Marriage at Cana are dwelt upon. The Christian Churches have traditionally also talked of a “Revelation to the Gentiles”, where the term Gentile meant all non-Jewish peoples. The Biblical Magi represent the non-Jewish peoples of the world.
As for the tradition of the Three Kings…
In Christian tradition the Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men, The Three Kings, or Kings from the east, are Zoroastrian priests, who were also proficient in astrology from Ancient Persia. The Gospel of Matthew states that they came “from the east to Jerusalem” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. According to Matthew, they navigated by following a star which came to be known as the Star of Bethlehem. As they approached Jerusalem, Herod tried to trick them into revealing where Jesus was, so that he might be put to death. Upon finding Jesus, the Magi gave him an unspecified number of gifts, amongst which were three highly symbolic ones: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Because these three gifts were recorded, most believe there were three givers; however, the Scripture does not specify how many wise men came from the east.
Traditionally, the were named Gaspar (or Caspar), Melchor (or Melchior) and Balthazar. Filipino belens, or Nativity scenes, always include the three wise men offering their gifts to the baby Jesus on the manger while Joseph and Mary look on.
Frankincense or olibanum is an aromatic resin obtained from the tree Boswellia thurifera or B. sacra, B. carterii (Burseraceae). It is used in incense as well as in perfumes.
Myrrh is a red-brown resinous material, the dried sap of the tree Commiphora myrrha, native to Somalia and the eastern parts of Ethiopia. The sap of a number of other Commiphora and Balsamodendron species are also known as myrrh, including that from Commiphora erythraea (sometimes called East Indian myrrh), Commiphora opobalsamum and Balsamodendron kua. Its name is derived from the Hebrew murr or maror, meaning “bitter”.
Frankincense symbolizes priestship (being incense), myrrh as a symbol of death (being an embalming oil), and gold as symbol of kingship.