Sunday, January 4, 2015

Blessing of Chalk & Incense at Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany (evening of January 5 - sundown January 6) celebrates the close of the Christmas season, (12th Night) and the shining of the light of Christ out to all nations. We recall the visit of the Magi from afar to the Holy Family, who went home by another route to become proclaimers of God’s Good News in Christ. (Matthew 2).

Since ancient times in some places, this was the day on which the dates of the moveable feasts (e.g., Ash Wednesday & Easter) during the coming year were announced. Also in some parts of the ancient Christian world on this feast, incense and chalk (symbols of the feast) were blessed which worshipers might take home for an annual Epiphany blessing of their home - as we do today. This is the tradition:

Sometime during the Epiphany season, a household gathers with friends for a festive meal at which the incense is burned, and a member of the household uses the blessed chalk to mark the main doorway with the year and the initials C, M and B which were understood both to signify the names of the three wise men, (Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior) and more importantly “Christus Mansionem Benedicat" (Christ bless this house):

20 + C + M + B + 15
This prayer is then said: May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek to serve Christ in everyone we meet. Amen.

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