Myrrh is almost as difficult to spell as (brocolli), (broccolli), broccoli and is nowhere as nutritious or convertible into breast milk as that green vegetable. I have often wondered what Mary did with the gifts that those Wise Men brought her baby son.
Consider the scene, Mary, newly arrived in Bethlehem with not much more than a husband, a donkey and a blue dress, was obviously the practical type. If she hadn’t been she wouldn’t have demonstrated such excellent improvisation skills. Witness the recent transport, the unusual accommodation and the makeshift crib. The Wise Men took a while to reach the new family (following a star is slower, but possibly more accurate than following a sat nav) and, by the time they arrived, it can only be presumed that the manger-dwellers were hungry (not the baby) and a tad uncomfortable.
Mary then, could perhaps have been forgiven for wishing for more practical gifts than myrrh, which is costly and steeped in symbolism but not edible. In fact, exactly the opposite, to quote the Christmas carol, myrrh is a ‘bitter perfume’ and a harbinger of ‘gathering gloom’. I wonder whether the good lady referred under her breath to Balthazar as a wise man or something else entirely as she smilingly accepted his gift.
If she couldn’t eat the myrrh, however, she might have found herself eating her words once it became clear that, following Herod’s declaration, the family were going to have to make a hasty exit from Bethlehem. My bet is that the myrrh didn’t make it into Egypt hidden under Joseph’s coat (not the technicoloured one, that was a different Joseph). Practical Mary would surely have sold the expensive myrrh for supplies, a travel cot and possibly a more comfortable donkey!
Maybe Balthazar was a wiser man than Mary originally suspected!