The Meaning of Myrrh
Two years ago, I took a giant leap of faith and went to go learn painting and live in Florence Italy. I did not know a lic of the Italian language and it was extremely challenging for me to find housing on my own. Yet, by the grace of God my soon to be Italian classmate needed a roomy and I volunteered to fill that role. She graciously secured a suitable place to live just walking distance from the center of the city. There I was on day one pulling up to my new home nestled neatly above a bakery on Melchiorre Gioia Dr. A name I had no idea what it meant, but it’s significance would later dawn on me with great impact.
Three months into my stay in Italy, I was having a rather difficult time. It is quite the challenge to learn how to live in a completely different culture. New language, new methods of travel, new ways of relating and of eating…it can be exciting and daunting all rolled into one. Furthermore, painting was hard work. Much more difficult then I anticipated.
I have the tendency to quickly jump to conclusions in my spiritual life, oh melancholy and endless thinking. Instead of being patient with my transition and realizing the anxiety in my heart was due to the fact that I was living in a NEW COUNTRY, I would constantly ask the Lord if I had done something out of His will. “Do I need to return home?? Have I messed up?? How do you want me to serve you here? What do you want Lord?!” You see, I had been doing mission for years prior to going there. A work that is so clearly, of the Lord. Thus, when I took a chance and decided to invest in art more fully, deep down I feared that I was being selfish and avoiding serving God. Even though I received confirmation to go to Italy and sought out solid spiritual direction in the matter, I was just waiting for God to tell me I did it wrong. Any insecurity I had I immediately attributed to Him telling me go home. Always so dramatic, I know.
It was very important to me that I was still giving to the Lord. Yet, I had no idea how to do that in Italy when I couldn’t even speak the language. I would try to find ways to give, as I had in the states like: giving food to those on the streets, or starting a book club, or even seeing if I could get involved with church outreaches. Yet, when it came down to it, my studies were demanding and my inabilities as a foreigner really did prohibit me from doing what came much easier in the States. Though, I am sure Jesus smiled at my attempts, even the failed ones.
One day it dawned on me, how much God had provided for me to be where I was right then. It was really all miraculous. Last minute Visa obtained, scholarships, and the perfect place to live. “I am meant to be here and He is probably teaching me something in my inabilities as well,” I gathered. When I started to remember the name of the street I lived on, I learned what it meant. Melchiorre Gioia was associated with the name of an Italian writer on philosophy and political economy. Though, I didn’t know who he was so my roommate gave me an easier way to recall where I lived. “Melchiorre is the name of one of the wise men,” she said. “It is?!!” I never knew their names before, hmm. “And Gioia, means Joy in italian.” “Oh wow.” The word joy really stuck with me, because that was exactly what I was seeking. “Lord, how I long to have joy and peace in my heart again.” I was done with feeling anxious. Maybe he is trying to show me how, I thought. I don’t believe in coincidences so I knew where I lived was poignant. Thus began my quest to learn more about the wise men and particularly Melchiorre.
From that day onward, I kept being made more and more aware of the three magi in art and the journey they took to baby Jesus. I would stare at the images presented to me and study what they were saying. One powerful image really hit me during my short trip to Madrid. It was a Rubens painting, with much details. It was not like any other painting of the nativity that I have seen before. There was so much movement and many many people gathering around the glowing child Jesus. The Magi were near to the child offering their gifts. One king was right at the crib showing Jesus his offering. Little Jesus was enthralled by the gift and the King kneeled humbly before him. This image brought a stillness and peace to my heart.
The mystery continued to unfold, however, as I kept learning more about the three Kings. They were men who studied well the coming of our Lord. They knew what to expect and that it would be a journey. Staying attuned to astronomy and the words given to them in faith, they were well prepared for that moment. Furthermore, I discovered what each one brought and their meanings. Gaspar, gave gold, Balthasar incense, and Melchiorre Myrrh. Hmm Myrrh, I took that in. Later I stumbled across a book that records messages from the Blessed Mother. In one particular miraculous encounter Mary appeared to Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda and spoke about this very moment of offering from the three kings. She said, “My daughter, great were the gifts which the Kings offered my most holy Son, but greater still was the affection with which they offered them and the mystery concealed beneath them. I wish you to also offer up similar gifts…Your ceaseless offer, however, must be love, which is the gold, continual prayer, which is the incense; and the patient acceptance of labors and true mortifications, which is the myrrh. All that you do for the Lord, you should offer up to Him with ardent affections.” The painting became ever more clear as I pictured the kings presenting their offering with such care and affection. It seemed quite obvious that God was sharing some simple truths with me. Particularly, the way in which I was to serve him. While each of the gifts presented are important, as Mary mentioned, it seemed particular that God wanted me to pay close attention to Melchiorre who’s offering represented an acceptance of labors and true mortifications. This was a small way to serve Him, but something I can give daily. In doing this, I will find Christ as they had and thus find the Joy my heart thirsted for.
As we get ever nearer to Christmas, this memory flooded my heart. A reminder to simply be with Him here right now and to offer up in great love what I have and do in this moment. Sometimes God calls us to grand ways of serving, other times it is in the simple ways that He waits for our offering. What I would give to be as the Magi were on that night they visited Christ. To see Him face to face, so vulnerable, just a babe, and to give Him something special.
Kate Capato is an adventurous creative who seeks all things beautiful. She often travels and serves in mission and now shares God’s love through her artistic creations of Sacred Art, Dance, and Photography. When she is not creating or traveling, Kate loves spending time with friends and family while drinking a good glass of wine and consuming extra dark chocolate. To see her work, visit her portfolio and share in this mission of spreading truth and goodness.