Were the gifts from the Magi really for Mary? Although they certainly have symbolic attributes, there are very practical uses for these gifts as well.
I stated last week something I’ve believed for a long time: that the gift of gold was a practical one for these people of less-than-average financial means. Mary and Joseph fled with infant Jesus to save his life. Gold would have provided the means for them to live while in exile.
But also, frankincense and myrrh have practical post-pregnancy gynecological uses.
In frankincense-gathering regions, gum is burned beside the mother during labor, and the newborn baby is fumigated. Regular fumigation of the baby continues for forty days following the birth. The mother treats herself during this time by squatting over a bowl of the burning gum. This practice assists in the healing of scarring or lacerations, protects the woman from postpartum infections, restores muscle tone, and accelerates recovery.
Myrrh acts as an anti-spasmotic circulatory stimulant to the uterus. In this capacity, the resin or tincture is taken for amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea as a purgative of stagnant blood. It helps normalize irregular periods. Myrrh helps promote efficient contractions and relieves pain during childbirth. As an antimicrobial, dilute tincture can be used in vaginal douches. Its internal use should be avoided by pregnant women.
So perhaps these sages from the East were providing something for Jesus’ fiercely rebellious mother* so that she could provide for his very existence during his infancy and earliest years.
* see Katie Mulligan’s sermon on Mary at http://bit.ly/5ZdM1T