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And Myrrh

by Rev. W. Cairns Henderson

A well-known Christian tradition throws the shadow of the cross over the Lord's cradle. In biblical times, myrrh was prized mainly for embalming the dead because of its value as a preservative. Mingled with wine, it was offered to the Lord as an anodyne for pain at His crucifixion; and it was brought by Nicodemus for embalming His body and by the women who came to prepare the body for burial. For these reasons the third gift of the wise men has been regarded as foreshadowing the death on the cross; its bitter perfume breathing a life of gathering shadows, of suffering and dying, and the chill silence of the grave. But the true significance of that gift, in relation to the Lord, is to be seen in the fact that myrrh was an ingredient of the holy anointing oil, for as such it signifies sensuous truth and the perception thereof.

The Writings ever remind us that primary causes are spiritual. The dead were anointed with myrrh because of its efficacy as an embalming agent; but the spiritual reason was that this substance represents the ultimate of life with man, and its effect the preservation of all good and truth with man, and also resurrection. Thus understood, the third gift of the wise men directs our attention, not to the Lord's passion, but to His glorification and resurrection. It becomes a symbolic foretelling of the truth that when the Lord rose He did so with His Human fully and clearly glorified; that His glorified Human is Divine even to the life of the sensuous, which is the ultimate of life. The connection with the tomb is there, but the meaning is that from the tomb would rise the God we worship, a Divinely Human God, God-Man even in ultimates.

Editorial, New Church Life 1958;78:566

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And Myrrh

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