Monday, January 02, 2006
The Christmas Season: Epiphany  

One of the benefits of following the liturgical calendar is that you continue to celebrate Christmas long after December 25th has come and gone. When I was growing up and prior to my having any knowledge of the liturgical calendar, I had a sense that Christmas should continue to be celebrated for a while, not just for one day. However, without a framework for supporting that idea, there is little support for actually continuing to think about Christmas in the days that follow the actual day.

In the spirit of recognizing the liturgical season of Christmas, this year, my wife and I have decided to postpone our own gift exchange to one another until January 6th which is the traditional feast day of the Epiphany*. It is also the day that the Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas. It is of course fitting to consider this a day to emulate the magi by giving gifts. On this feast of the Epiphany, the Church celebrates that the Word made flesh was first revealed to the Gentiles when the magi came to worship Him offering their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

I also like the tradition associated with the feast of Epiphany on which the home is blessed. Part of this tradition includes inscribing with chalk the year and the initials of the three magi above the doors on the outside of your house. This year, the chalk will be used to make the following marking above the door:
20 + C + M + B + 06

I remember seeing that marking above doors when I was in Europe, but I did not know what it meant. I learned later that letters "C", "M", and "B" represent two things. First, they are the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. In addition, the initials can be an abbreviation for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat which means "Christ bless this house". In general, when I see that above a door, I think that Christ has been welcomed into that home because the family that lives there has made room for Him. It is my prayer for my family that when we see the inscription above our door we will be reminded to make room for Christ in our home and in our hearts. In addition to the inscription, the blessing of the house includes asking for God's blessing upon the house and the family goes from room to room in the house sprinkling each room with Holy water.

For the past several years, we have celebrated this tradition. It is something which I look forward to in part because it fulfills that sense I had when I was growing up that Christmas is more than just one day. Instead, through the liturgical calendar, we get to enjoy a much longer Christmas celebration.

For more information on Epiphany traditions go to Catholic Culture.

*In the United States, the feast day is moved to the following Sunday which is January 8, 2005.

Posted by David at 10:27 AM  |  Comments (0)  | Link

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