Christmas is not over yet! In fact, one of the most glorious feasts of Christmastide is right around the corner. The Epiphany is one of the Church’s major and spectacular feasts. It occurs on January 6th, the final day of the 12 days of Christmas.
This is the day the Church commemorates the Magi arriving to give homage to the newborn King of Kings with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
However, as we celebrate the Magi’s arrival, we are not merely celebrating a past event.
Rather, we are celebrating a current reality: the coming of all the Gentile nations, those not initially a part of Our Lord’s chosen people, into the Kingdom of God. On the Epiphany, we are celebrating God’s invitation to us to come worship at the feet of Our Lord.
That is why the Epiphany is such a glorious feast and worth celebrating each year!
From our Eastern brothers and sisters, we can learn much about celebrating the Epiphany.
For the Eastern Church, Epiphany is the celebration of not one, not two, but three ‘epiphanies,’ or revelations of Christ: the arrival of the Magi with their kingly gifts, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. These three biblical events are theophanies, or visible manifestations of Who Jesus really is—God Incarnate.
The Eastern Church also has several beautiful traditions to help commemorate this wonderful day. Here is a helpful guide to a few of these traditions for your family to partake in this year:
Blessing of the Homes: The Epiphany is the traditional time to have your home blessed by a priest for the New Year. If it isn’t possible for a priest to come, the head of the household can preside over the ceremony, which includes prayers and sprinkling the rooms with holy water specially blessed for Epiphany. After the ritual, mark the entryway of the home with chalk (see further explanation below). For suggested prayers for the blessing, see the USCCB’s Blessing of the Home and Household on Epiphany.
Blessing of Chalk: In the blessing of the homes, you use blessed chalk to mark the doorways. (Your parish should be able to provide Epiphany water and blessed chalk to perform these blessings.) The long-standing Epiphany tradition of marking churches, homes, schools, and other buildings with a special “holy formula” over the entryway follows a formula similar to the blessing of the Paschal Candle at Easter. This formula for Epiphany includes the current year along with the initials C, M, and B in the order shown below.
20 + C + M + B + 24
The C, M, and B are placed in between the numbers of the current year, with crosses in between each symbol. The three letters have two significations: the invocation Christus Mansionem Benedicat (“Christ bless this house”), as well as the first initial of the names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
You can use unblessed chalk if necessary for this aspect of the ritual. You can also use regular holy water for the blessing of the home if you can’t obtain Epiphany water.
Blessing of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh: There is also a special Epiphany blessing in honor of the original Christmas gifts. The faithful can have their parish priest bless items of gold (such as wedding rings and rosaries), myrrh for medicinal use, and frankincense that can be used during the Epiphany home blessing and other liturgical feasts (such as Easter).
Along with this great feast, the Church in her wisdom has given us a liturgical year full of powerful feasts that help us bring our families together, deepen our understanding, and grow in our faith. In the beloved book The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life, author and mother Kendra Tierney shares how her family incorporates traditional Catholic practices into everyday life throughout the Church year. Bring yours home for the new year by ordering today from The Catholic Company!