Catholicism, Catholic, Traditional Catholicism, Catholic Church


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Feast of the Epiphany

Wedding at Cana, by Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, 1819

 
 
 
(See the page on Twelfth Night first
for the basics of the meaning of this Feast)

 

As described on the page on Twelfthnight, this Feast -- also known as the . "Theophany" or "Three Kings Day" -- recalls Christ revealing Himself as Divine in three different ways: to the Magi, at His Baptism, and with His miracle at the wedding feast at Cana.

For families who practice traditions involving "the Magi" or "La Befana" leaving gifts for children, the day begins with the wee ones discovering what was left for them while they slept on Twelfth Night.

At today's Mass, there will be a blessing of gold, frankincense, myrrh, Epiphany Water, and, after Communion, a blessing of chalk. Bring small special items of gold to have with you during the Mass, and they will be blessed if they are exposed as you sit in your pew with them (wedding rings, rosaries, an heirloom piece of gold jewelry, for example).

When Mass is over, you will take some of the blessed chalk, frankincense, myrrh, and Epiphany Water home with you, so it's good to bring a container to transport Holy Water and one to put some grains of incense and a piece of chalk into. (Note: if you can, take and keep 5 pieces of blessed incense for your Paschal Candle this Easter),

When you get home, sprinkle some Epiphany water (otherwise and afterwards used as regular Holy Water) in the rooms of your house to protect it and bring blessings. This Holy Water recalls the waters of the Jordan, and is a visible reminder of Christ's Divinity, of Jesus's revealing Himself as God at His Baptism, when were heard the words from the Father: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." This rite of blessing the home -- led by a priest, if possible, or the father of the house if no priest is available -- goes like this:

Upon entering the house:

Priest/Father:

Peace be to this house.

All:

And to all who dwell herein.

Priest:

From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed.

All:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.

After this is completed:

All:

From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Priest:

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and  forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead and lead us not into temptation,

All:

But deliver us from evil.

Priest:

All they from Saba shall come

All:

Bringing gold and frankincense.

Priest:

O Lord, hear my prayer.

All:

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Priest:

Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.

All:

Amen.

Priest:

Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee-- Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

All:

And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

Priest:

Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.

All:

Amen.

After the prayers of the blessing are recited, walk through the house and bless each room by sprinkling with Epiphany water and incensing it.

Take the blessed chalk and first write the initials of the three Wise Men, connected with Crosses, over the inside of your front door (on the lintel, if possible). Then write the year, breaking up the numbers and the year so that they fall on both sides of the initials. It should look like this, for ex.:

20  C+M+B  05

with the "20 "being the millennium and century, the "C" standing for the first Wise Man, Caspar, the "M" standing for Melchior, the "B" standing for Balthasar, and the "05" standing for the decade and year. It is also popularly believed that the Kings' initials also stand for "Christus mansionem benedicat" ("Christ bless this house").


Note that some write the first Wise Man's name as "Gaspar," "Kasper," or "Jaspar," so the initials would be "G+M+B" or "K+M+B" or "J+M+B." In any case, these initials over our doorway serve to remind us of Who the Magi saw and how they saw Him. They remind us to adore Him as they did. The chalk markings remain over the door 'til Pentecost.

It is a popular custom among some people that all who enter or re-enter their home for the first time after the blessing should step with their right foot across the threshold so as to start things off "on the right foot."

It is customary in some religious orders to choose a new patron Saint today for the coming year. Families can do this, too, choosing a new Saint by designating someone (e.g., father or mother, etc.) to select the new Patron, by determing by lots who will select the new patron, by having family members write down their choices and choosing at random, by allowing the person to choose who presents the best argument for a particular Patron, etc. It would be very beneficial if the person who chooses teaches the rest of the family about that particular Patron, perhaps looking up the Saint in Butler's works, finding art work depicting the Saint, etc., and sharing it.

As to foods, the bread-like Three Kings Cake is eaten on this day. In some cultures (e.g., Mexico), whoever finds the piece with the trinket (usually shaped like Baby Jesus) inside has to host the Candlemas party. A recipe:

Three Kings Cake

Cake:
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4 oz.) envelopes active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 eggs
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

Icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Trinket, almond, other nut
Colored sugars, if desired

Cook first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Cool mixture to 100 degrees to 110 degrees.

Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add butter mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Punch dough down; divide in half. Turn 1 portion out onto a lightly floured surface; roll to a 28- x 10-inch rectangle. Spread half each of cinnamon mixture and softened butter on dough. Roll dough, jellyroll fashion, starting at long side. Place dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough, cinnamon mixture, and butter.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden.

To finish: Make a tiny cut into the cake and hide a plastic or china trinket (shaped like Baby Jesus, if possible) inside (may substitute an almond or other nut). Mix the icing ingredients and do one of the following: 1) simply spread on cake (may dot with candied cherries), 2) spread on cake and then top with a colored sugard 3) spread on cake and sprinkle with alternating bands of colored sugar (in New Orleans, the traditional colors are green, gold, and purple).

In Rome today, a miraculous image of Our Lord as Divine Infant, il Santo Bambino di Ara Coeli, is honored, after having been brought out from its home in the Church of Santa Maria di Ara Coeli on the Capitoline Hill in Rome on Christmas Eve to be revered by the Roman people. And as to what happens in Venice today, see the "Customs" section of the page devoted to the Feast of the Ascension.

When the Octave of the Epiphany (13 January, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord) is over in 8 days, the feeling of Christmastide begins to wane a bit. It is either today or on the Octave that some people take down their Christmas decorations, though many wait until the eve of Candlemas on February 2. Though the Season of Christmas liturgically ends with the Octave of the Epiphany, the celebration of Christ's entry into the world and His childhood doesn't truly end until Candlemas (also known as "The Feast of the Presentation and Purification) when we celebrate Christ's being presented in the Temple and Mary's Purification.

The time which begins today and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is known unofficially as "Carnival," and is a generally celebratory time which ends in in Shrovetide and its famous (and infamous) Mardi Gras. Then remembering of Christ's infancy and Divine Childhood gives way to Lent.

You can download the above blessing in Microsoft Word .doc format here: Blessing of the Home on the Feast of the Epiphany (1 page).

And now for a few beautiful readings, which you can download in Microsoft Word .doc format here (5 pages).

 


Readings


Excerpts from sermons XXXI, XXXIII, XXXIV, and XXXVI on the Epiphany, by Pope Leo the Great (ca. A.D. 395-461)

 

The Epiphany a necessary sequel to the Nativity. After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought forth the Saviour of mankind, the venerable feast of the Epiphany, dearly beloved, gives us continuance of joy, that the force of our exultation and the fervour of our faith may not grow cool, in the midst of neighbouring and kindred mysteries. For it concerns all men's salvation, that the infancy of the Mediator between God and men was already manifested to the whole world, while He was still detained in the tiny town. For although He had chosen the Israelitish nation, and one family out of that nation, from whom to assume the nature of all mankind, yet He was unwilling that the early days of His birth should be concealed within the narrow limits of His mother's home: but desired to be soon recognized by all, seeing that He deigned to be born for all...

...The wise men from the East are typical fulfilments of God's promise to Abraham. Now the manifestation of this unspeakable mercy, dearly-beloved, came to pass when Herod held the royal power in Judea, where the legitimate succession of Kings having failed and the power of the High-priests having been overthrown, an alien-born had gained the sovereignty: that the rising of the true King might be attested by the voice of prophecy, which had said: "a prince shall not fail from Juda, nor a leader from his loins, until He come for whom it is reserved, and He shall be the expectation of the nations." Concerning which an innumerable succession was once promised to the most blessed patriarch Abraham to be begotten not by fleshly seed but by fertile faith; and therefore it was compared to the stars in multitude that as father of all the nations he might hope not for an earthly but for a heavenly progeny. And therefore, for the creating of the promised posterity, the heirs designated under the figure of the stars are awakened by the rising of a new star, that the ministrations of the heaven might do service in that wherein the witness of the heaven had been adduced. A star more brilliant than the other stars arouses wise men that dwell in the far East, and from the brightness of the wondrous light these men, not unskilled in observing such things, appreciate the importance of the sign: this doubtless being brought about in their hearts by Divine inspiration, in order that the mystery of so great a sight might not be hid from them, and, what was an unusual appearance to their eyes, might not be obscure to their minds. In a word they scrupulously set about their duty and provide themselves with such gifts that in worshipping the One they may at the same time show their belief in His threefold function: with gold they honour the Person of a King, with myrrh that of Man, with incense that of God...

...The perseverance of the Magi has led to the most important results. Led then, dearly beloved, into Bethlehem by obeying the guidance of the star, the wise men "rejoiced with very great joy," as the evangelist has told us: "and entering the house, found the child with Mary, His mother; and falling down they worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh." What wondrous faith of perfect knowledge, which was taught them not by earthly wisdom, but by the instruction of the Holy Spirit! Whence came it that these men, who had quitted their country without having seen Jesus, and had not noticed anything in His looks to enforce such systematic adoration, observed this method in offering their gifts unless it were that besides the appearance of the star, which attracted their bodily eyes, the more refulgent rays of truth taught their hearts that before they started on their toilsome road, they must understand that He was signified to Whom was owed in gold royal honour, in incense Divine adoration, in myrrh the acknowledgment of mortality.

Such a belief and understanding no doubt, as far as the enlightenment of their faith went, might have been sufficient in themselves and have prevented their using their bodily eyes in inquiring into that which they had beheld with their mind's fullest gaze. But their sagacious diligence, persevering till they found the child, did good service for future peoples and for the men of our own time: so that, as it profited us all that the apostle Thomas, after the Lord's resurrection, handled the traces of the wounds in His flesh, so it was of advantage to us that His infancy should be attested by the visit of the wise men. And so the wise men saw and adored the Child of the tribe of Judah, "of the seed of David according to the flesh," "made from a woman, made under the law," which He had come "not to destroy but to fulfil." They saw and adored the Child, small in size, powerless to help others, incapable of speech, and in nought different to the generality of human children. Because, as the testimonies were trustworthy which asserted in Him the majesty of invisible Godhead, so it ought to be impossible to doubt that "the Word became flesh," and the eternal essence of the Son of God took man's true nature: lest either the inexpressible marvels of his acts which were to follow or the infliction of sufferings which He had to bear should overthrow the mystery of our Faith by their inconsistency: seeing that no one at all can be justified save those who believe the Lord Jesus to be both true God and true Man...

...The story of the magi is not only a bygone fact in history, but of everyday application to ourselves. The day, dearly-beloved, on which Christ the Saviour of the world first appeared to the nations must be venerated by us with holy worship: and today those joys must be entertained in our hearts which existed in the breasts of the three magi, when, aroused by the sign and leading of a new star, which they believed to have been promised, they fell down in presence of the King of heaven and earth. For that day has not so passed away that the mighty work, which was then revealed, has passed away with it, and that nothing but the report of the thing has come down to us for faith to receive and memory to celebrate; seeing that, by the oft-repeated gift of God, our times daily enjoy the fruit of what the first age possessed. And therefore, although the narrative which is read to us from the Gospel properly records those days on which the three men, who had neither been taught by the prophets' predictions nor instructed by the testimony of the law, came to acknowledge God from the furthest parts of the East, yet we behold this same thing more clearly and abundantly carried on now in the enlightenment of all those who are called, since the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled when he says, "the Lord has laid bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the nations upon earth have seen the salvation which is from the Lord our God" and again, "and those to whom it has not been announced about Him shall see, and they who have not heard, shall understand."

Hence when we see men devoted to worldly wisdom and far from belief in Jesus Christ brought out of the depth of their error and called to an acknowledgment of the true Light, it is undoubtedly the brightness of the Divine grace that is at work: and whatever of new light illumines the darkness of their hearts, comes from the rays of the same star: so that it should both move with wonder, and going before lead to the adoration of God the minds which it visited with its splendour. But if with careful thought we wish to see how their threefold kind of gift is also offered by all who come to Christ with the foot of faith, is not the same offering repeated in the hearts of true believers? For he that acknowledges Christ the King of the universe brings gold from the treasure of his heart: he that believes the Only-begotten of God to have united man's true nature to Himself, offers myrrh; and he that confesses Him in no wise inferior to the Father's majesty, worships Him in a manner with incense.

 
First Hymn for the Epiphany, by St. Ephraem (d. 373)

RESP.--To Thee be praise from Thy flock in the day of Thy Epiphany!

1. The heavens He has renewed, for that fools worshipped all the luminaries: He has renewed the earth, for that in Adam it was wasted. That which He fashioned has become new by His spittle: and the All-Sufficing has restored bodies with souls.

2. Gather yourselves again ye sheep and without labour receive cleansing! for one needs not as Elisha to bathe seven times in the river, nor again to be wearied as the priests are wearied with sprinklings.

3. Seven times Elisha purified himself in a mystery of the seven spirits; and the hyssop and blood are a mighty symbol. There is no room for division; He is not divided from the Lord of all Who is Son of the Lord of all.

4. Moses sweetened in Marah the waters that were bitter, because the People complained and murmured: Thus he gave a sign of baptism, wherein the Lord of life makes sweet them that were bitter.

5. The cloud overshadowed and kept off the burning heat from the camp; it showed a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which overshadows you in baptism tempering the flaming fire that it harm not your bodies.

6. Through the sea the People then passed, and showed a symbol of the baptism wherein ye were washed. The People passed through that and believed not: the Gentiles were baptized in this and believed and received the Holy Ghost.

7. The Word sent the Voice to proclaim before His Coming, to prepare for Him the way by which He came, and to betroth the Bride till He should come, that she might be ready when He should come and take her from the water.

8. The voice of prophecy stirred the son of the barren woman, and he went forth wandering in the desert and crying, "Lo! the Son of the Kingdom comes! prepare ye the way that He may enter and abide in your dwellings!"

9. John cried, "Who comes after me, He is before me: I am the Voice but not the Word; I am the torch but not the Light; the Star that rises before the Sun of Righteousness."

10. In the wilderness this John had cried and had said, "Repent ye sinners of your evils, and offer the fruits of repentance; for lo! He comes that winnows the wheat from the tares."

11. The Lightgiver has prevailed and marked a mystery, by the degrees he ascended: Lo! there are twelve days since he ascended, and today this is the thirteenth: a perfect mystery of Him, the Son, and His twelve!

12. Darkness was overcome to make it manifest that Satan was overcome and the Light prevailed that he should proclaim that the Firstborn triumphs: darkness was overcome with the Dark Spirit, and our Light prevailed with the Lightgiver.

13. In the Height and the Depth the Son had two heralds. The star of light proclaimed Him from above; John likewise preached Him from beneath: two heralds, the earthly and the heavenly.

14. The star of light, contrary to nature, shone forth of a sudden less than the sun yet greater than the sun. Less was it than he in manifest light; and greater than he in secret might because of its mystery.

15. The star of light shed its rays among them that were in darkness, and guided them as though they were blind; so that they came and met the great Light: they gave offerings and received life and adored and departed.

16. The herald from above showed His Nature to be from the Most High; likewise he that was from beneath showed His Body to be from humankind, mighty marvel! that His Godhead and His Manhood by them were proclaimed!

17. Thus whoso reckons Him as of earth, the star of light will convince him that He is of Heaven: and whoso reckons Him as of spirit, this John will convince him that He is also bodily.

18. John drew near with his parents and worshipped the Sun, and brightness rested on His Face. He was not moved as when in the womb. Mighty marvel! that here he worships and there he leaped!

19. The whole creation became for Him as one mouth and cried out concerning Him. The Magi cry out in their gifts; the barren cry out with their children; the star of light, lo! it cries out in the air, "Behold the Son of the King!"

20. The heavens are opened, the waters break forth, the dove is in glory! The voice of the Father is stronger than thunder, as it utters the word, "This is My Beloved"; the Watchers brought the tidings, the children acclaimed Him in their Hosannas.

Back to Customs of the Liturgical Year
Back to Being Catholic
Index

Quantcast