Saturday, 4 January 2014

Wise men arrive early

I'm preparing to celebrate the Epiphany but over two days, as it falls on the traditional Monday 6th January in the "old" calendar. This is, of course, the date on which it has been celebrated for just a little time.  The earliest reference to it being celebrated on 6th January is  A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus.  It is also the traditional day to take down Christmas decorations - Twelfth Night - but we mustn't let tradition, literature, songs and the other pillars of our culture stand in the way of making things easier for us busy 21st century Christians.

There will be Missa Cantata here at 7pm on Monday.

We will also be blessing chalk for people to take home to bless the entrance way to their houses with the inscription:

 20 + C + M + B + 14

The initials remind us of the legendary names of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar – and also stand for the Latin motto: Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless this house.” In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood so that the Lord would pass over their homes; but in this ritual, we mark our doors with chalk as a sign that we have invited God’s presence and blessing into our homes. I do think it's good for people to identify themselves as believers, whether it's by something they wear or by pictures, statues and other signs in their homes.  The signs that might call to mind our Saviour are all too absent from everyday life.

It's traditional to write the inscription on the lintel, above the door, but it can be written anywhere near the entrance. The following prayer may be said while the entrance is marked:

The three Wise Men,

C Caspar,

M   Melchior,

B  and Balthasar followed the star of God’s Son who became human

20  two thousand

14  and fourteen years ago.

+   May Christ bless our home

+   and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.


Seeker said...

The liturgy office site has a rather amusing typo suggesting that we engrave the letters on the house 'lentils'

GOR said...

Yes Father, the blessing of chalk is a beautiful custom of which I was unaware until some years back at the Basilica of St. Josaphat here in Milwaukee. The Basilica parish is administered by the Conventual Franciscans and was originally erected through the donations of Polish immigrants at the close of the 19th century.

However, the Franciscans go one better than ‘Twelfth Night’. The Nativity Scene at the Basilica remains up until February 2nd - the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple.