WHATEVER may have been the reason for the return of the Holy Family to Bethlehem at the time of the visit of the Wise Kings, we are at least certain that it was there that our Lord was found by these holy pilgrims. We must pass by, in the present work, the history of the Kings before their arrival at Bethlehem, a history which is full of beauty and of instruction. They had been led to Jerusalem by the prophecy of Balaam about the Star, and by the Star itself which had appeared to them in their own distant country. Jerusalem, that is, the Chief Priests and Scribes, representing the ecclesiastical authority in the holy nation, had given them a plain answer, founded on the prophecy of Micheas, concerning the place at which the promised Messias was to be born. The fact of His Birth was assumed by the Kings. It was the signification of that fact by the appearance of the Star which had made them leave their own countries for this long and laborious journey, probably of four or five months. Jerusalem, however, knew nothing of it. The Jews had a number of other prophecies, of which these Princes were ignorant, and they might have known that the weeks of Daniel's prediction must be drawing to their close, and that the sceptre of which Jacob had spoken on his death bed had departed from Juda. But these simple strangers found no sympathy in Jerusalem. If there were many there, like Simeon and Anna, who had some knowledge of the truth, it is not certain that the Kings communicated with them. But at least Jerusalem sent them on their way to Bethlehem, although they were under a kind of pledge to the wicked Edomite on the throne to return to him and inform him of the result of their quest. Then, as they went on their road, their Star blazed out in the evening sky, and guided their feet to the spot where the young Child was.

That our Lord's loving Heart was watching over these favoured souls must be taken for granted. He had arranged the appearance of the Star, He had inspired them with the devout and courageous thought of undertaking the journey, He had guided and guarded them in their fearless questioning of the Jewish authorities, and He had put into the mouths of the Priests, as of old into the mouths of the Prophets, the answer that was to satisfy them. Every footstep of their journey was counted in His Heart. The question which we are inclined to ask ourselves is whether our Blessed Lady had any expectation of their coming? Some of the contemplatives of the Church tell us that she had, that she knew this and other features in the history by special inspiration, before they came about. We might find instances in Sacred Scripture of this kind of partial and communicated foreknowledge, and it is also to be found in the lives of the Saints. We can only answer the question by saying that even without questioning the possibility of any such preternatural communications in her case, our Blessed Lady, in her perfect intelligence of the ways of God, must have had some surmises as to a coming of kings from afar to worship our Lord, though there was not in Scripture any prophecy that could fix this coming to a particular time or place. It is reasonable to think that she was raised far above the narrow views as to God's Providence which we find later on in some of her nation, but which were in truth, inconsistent with Scripture as well as with the character of God. She quite understood that, as St. Paul says, God was not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. She understood that the Child she had borne was the Saviour of the whole world. She would easily remember the prophecies of Isaias as pointing to something like the very scene which her eyes saw before her, when the Kings arrived with their train of servants to do their homage to our Lord.

Moreover, there had been more than one reference to the return of the Gentiles to the Church in what had lately been in her mind and had sounded in her ears. In her own Canticle she had been guided to speak principally of the Incarnation as exalting the lowly race of mankind to the thrones which had been forfeited by the rebel Angels, and she had referred also to the faithfulness of God in becoming Incarnate in the race of Abraham and the other Fathers of the holy line. But the promises made to Abraham included the blessing, in his seed, of all the nations of the world. St. Zacharv had spoken distinctly of the promises made since the beginning of the world, and of the enlightenment of those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. After that had come the Canticle and the prophecy of holy Simeon, who had spoken most precisely of the illumination of the Gentiles as the issue of the salvation brought into the world by the coming of our Lord, and he had even put it before the glory of the people of Israel. Thus there had been abundant preparation, in what had lately passed, for this visit of the Gentile Princes, even if no special illumination on the subject had been granted to this Blessed Mother.

It is most likely that these Wise Kings inherited the original prophecy made in Paradise about the Woman and her Seed, as well as the twofold prediction of Balaam about the Star and the Sceptre. Their question, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? " implies that they expected to find the Mother with the King. Thus they would naturally pay due honour and reverence to Mary, as well as the adoration and worship which they offered to her Son. The gold and frankincense and myrrh must have been placed in her hands, and she must have been treated by them in all respects as a Queen. Their simple penetrating faith found nothing to blunt it in all the circumstances of poverty, humiliation, and suffering in which they found the Royal Child, and they went away on their journey homewards with the image of the Mother and the Child imprinted in their hearts, the representation to them of the ineffable mercy of God on the human race.

If we try to enter into the heart of our Blessed Lady with regard to this mystery of the Epiphany, we may find a few points which are worthy of attention. In the first place, it must have been an extremely great joy to her to see our Lord honoured by those great ones of the earth. Not that any homage of theirs could be really worthy of Him, nor could it increase its value that it was paid to Him by those who were conspicuous for the false glitter of earthly grandeur and position. The homage of a pure and humble heart is more pleasing to Him than all the honour that can be paid Him by earthly greatness. But it was well that earth and the human race should offer to Him of their best, and as He has ordained the various ranks and stations of human society } and as those who rule do so in His Name and by His authority, it was well that those who have received most from Him in this way should humble themselves before Him. Up to this time, He had admitted but few to His presence but the poor and lowly, the holy priest and the religious widow serving God in the sanctuary day and night. The world had ignored Him and neglected Him. Now some great ones were to be found to compensate for this neglect. Moreover, they came from afar, at their own great cost and labour, and their coming stirred up the whole population, and so attracted great attention for the moment to the Holy Child. But more precious than all else in the eyes of our Lord, and so also in the eyes of His Mother, were the deep faith, the strong and courageous virtues, the resolute perseverance, the simplicity which nothing could scandalize, of those illustrious saints.

Besides this, it is not easy to think that our Lady was ignorant who they were, nor that they represented before the feet of our Lord the whole Gentile world. That was a world for which God had done very much, and for which He was to do more. It had not the special privileges which were the heritage of the holy nation, but it had its own heritage of ancient traditions, the teaching of nature, the law of conscience, the tender government of Providence revealing the fatherly care of God. He had never, even in its darkest moments, altogether abandoned it, or left Himself without witness to it, and He intended it to share most largely and gloriously in the blessings now brought into the world by the Son of Mary. These blessings were sketched out in the most glowing language by some of the prophets, and these descriptions must have been well known to our Blessed Lady. Even if she had no further knowledge of the future of these glorious saints, and of the Churches which they were to adorn, she might well imagine what the grand history might be of which the Epiphany was the first passage. The thought of the faithful care of the Creator for the whole race of man would fill her with love, admiration, and thankfulness.

Again, the presence of these Wise Kings was the representation, both to our Lord and our Blessed Lady, of an immense new world over which He was to reign as Redeemer and King. They paid Him the solemn homage due to Him as God and also as Man, and their gifts testified to the clearness and penetration of their faith as to His Work and Person, The offering of the myrrh, in particular, has always

been considered as showing an anticipation of the Sacred Passion. Our Blessed Lady was to be, in the sense of which the saints speak, the Mother of all the Redeemed by her Son, and she entered on this office, as we may say, with regard to the Gentile world, at this mystery of the Epiphany. Here again was a great source of joy and gratitude, that God was to give Him the heathen as His inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth as His possession, that the subjects of His Kingdom were to be so numerous and various, rendering to Him so much honour and service, and for all this vast realm Mary was to feel a mother's care and love.

Out of this thought flows another, which may be mentioned here for the first time, although there has been occasion for its occurrence in some of the earlier mysteries of the Infancy. As all that passed before our Lady's eyes in these successive manifestations of our Lord was meant to be to her a fresh revelation of God and our Lord, and a fresh subject to her of praise, wonder, joy, and thanksgiving, so also was all that passed meant to furnish her with fresh matter for her most powerful intercession. Every one who came before her to adore or to honour our Lord, was at once a fresh invitation to her to pour forth her prayer. It was as much her work in the Kingdom to be a perpetual and unwearied intercessor for men as it was to be a perpetual adorer and praiser of God. Thus the shepherds had earned her prayers at the Nativity, Simeon and Anna at the Purification, the friends and relatives who had greeted them, on their return at Nazareth. And now the whole Gentile world, as it were, came to her feet at Bethlehem, and every holy instinct of her most tender heart was moved to pray for all blessings on these simple and noble souls, who were afterwards to be so distinguished in the preaching of the Gospel, and for the whole multitudes of men who might be invited to God and the knowledge of our Lord by their means.

We have thought of our Blessed Lady as occupied with immense fruit and energy in the contemplation of the wonders of God, the revelations made concerning Him and His ways in Sacred Scripture, in the worship and solemn services of the sanctuary, and other such employments of the mind and heart, very holy in themselves, and such are or may be the occupations of any child of God in the Church. She is especially set in His Kingdom as our pattern in all the homage and reverence which we owe to our Incarnate Lord, as He is our great pattern in all the worship which we owe to His Eternal Father. Her intelligence concerning Him under all that variety of relations to us on which devout souls love" to dwell, naturally grew as time advanced, even from the beginning, although the great times for this manifestation were naturally the Public Life, the Passion, and the Risen Life. It is then that He sets Himself before us as Captain, and King, Teacher and Legislator, the Shepherd and the Spouse of souls, our Life, our Light, our Guide, our Judge. Each of these offices of His implies a correspondence of intelligent and grateful homage from us. In all these respects we have a priceless boon in our Blessed Lady, who is not, as some writers would make her, hidden altogether from our sight and kept in a world of her own, apart from ours, but, with all her incomparable dignity, our model and our guide in matters which come across us as duties or opportunities, day after day. These occupations of hers are ours also, nor can there be any which raise us more powerfully to God, which expand, enlarge, ennoble, spiritualize our souls so much as these. They are the highest and, at the same time, the most legitimate, occupations for heart and mind.

This office of intercessory prayer for others, in particular, is a duty which His devout children owe to God, Who has given them the power of prayer, and Who intends the great operations of His grace in the Church to be set in motion and urged on by its use. Thousands of most wonderful blessings are daily descending from Heaven in answer to prayer. But, if it is our duty, and the appointed means by which the streams of His beneficence are to be opened and poured forth, it is also an occupation most fruitful of blessings to ourselves. For it gives us aims, objects, purposes," interests, views, judgments, aspirations, which are above the things of the world, at the same time that it makes our hearts most tender and large and compassionate and full of sympathy even for the least of temporal and physical troubles. It knits our hearts to God and to man as nothing else can. Men grow in spiritual stature, in loftiness of thought, in intensity of charity, by the habit of intercession. And when we are trying to give to ourselves some poor account of the advances and ascensions even of the Blessed Mother of God, we must not forget that what is true of other such exercises is true also of this. It is productive of the greatest and most rapid advances to those who know best how to use it, and who are faithful in acting on their knowledge. It was there fore a means of immense grace to Mary, who was in its use most faithful as well as most powerful.

And again, we must not leave this mystery of the Epiphany without repeating what has to be said of all such mysteries. Apart from all the fruits that our Lady must have gained by her faithfulness in the use of her opportunities and the marvelous revelations of God's ways which were set before her mind, it was a great step onwards in the unfolding of the dispensation of the Incarnation, and as such an occasion for a fresh outpouring of gratuitous graces on her who had so large a part in the administration of that dispensation.