Friday, January 6, 2012

The Rites of the Twelfth Night or Epiphany


The Western cultural revolution that swept away the Latin Mass and many old Western traditions of the Yuletide Season as well as other sacred Festivals in the Wheel of the Year has been reversed to some extent, as a new Mass that is translated much more accurately from the Latin is given to parishes and old traditions such as the Blessing of the House on Twelfth Night with Chalk and Holy Water are reinstated.

Blessing of Epiphany Water and Chalk

It is traditional for parish priests to bless water on the eve of Epiphany, which is used for the blessing of homes the next day. Chalk for each family is also blessed so that they may mark the names of the three Magi over their doors, as a witness of their faith and protection against evil. This blessing is from the older version of the Roman Ritual.

The feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas on the 6th of January 6th.

Blessing of the Chalk:

'O Lord God, bless this Thy creature chalk that it may be used for the salvation of the human race. Through the invocation of Thy most Holy Name grant that whoever shall take of this chalk and write with it upon the doors of his house the names of Thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession receive health of body and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.'

The blessing of water on the vigil of the Epiphany could well be performed with full solemnity before the main altar. If this is not possible and no priest is available, the prayers and hymns might be used as a vigil preparation at home. The full text for the blessing may be found in Volume three of Father Weller's English translation of the Roman Ritual.

Prayer Source: Twelve Days of Christmas, The by Elsa Chaney, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1955

Blessing of Chalk:

Blessed chalk is distributed to the people in some churches, especially in Europe. The chalk is taken home and is used to mark the year and the initials of the three Magi over the door of the house (e.g.: 20 + C + M + B + 12) to remind all who enter and leave through the main door that they also must be ready to leave all, if necessary, and follow Christ. It might be added also that this is a beautiful act of faith.

Blessing of Bread, Salt and Eggs:

In some places in Europe, bread, eggs and salt are taken to the church on this day to be blessed. In sections of Germany incense is taken also. These things are blessed after the morning service and may be taken home to be eaten with the holiday meals. In Germany, the bread and eggs are given to the poor, the salt is retained at home as a reminder that the people, as Christians, are to be 'the salt of the earth,' and the incense is burned at the family altar to remind the whole family that, just as the house is filled with the odour of the incense, so should charity bind together all of the members of the family with Christ.

Blessing of Gold, Frankincense (and Myrrh): In many churches there is a custom of blessing gold, frankincense and sometimes myrrh on the feast of the Epiphany. The gold is to be offered for sacred vessels in the parish, the incense is taken home to be used as noted above. The blessings of all these things, the chalk, bread, gold, etc., may be found in the Roman Ritual (English translation The Book of Blessings). If these customs are not in practice in your parish, you might ask the priests to introduce them.

Blessing of Water on the Vigil of Epiphany: In some places water is blessed on the Vigil of Epiphany and is then given to the faithful to use in their homes, and also for the sick. Unlike the above blessings, however, this blessing is reserved to the Bishop or to his delegate. It is a beautiful, but rather long ceremony which may be found in the Roman Ritual.

Blessing of the Home on Epiphany

This blessing of the home and inscription of the initials of the three Magi above each door can be performed either by a priest or the head of the family.

On entering the home,

Priest or Head of House, the Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who dwell herein.

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.

All Pray: The Magnificat.

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,
quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies
timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;
deposuit potentes de sede
et exaltavit humiles;
esurientes implevit bonis
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
recordatus misericordiae,
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula.

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

Leader: Our Father. . . And lead us not into temptation

All: But deliver us from evil.

Leader: All they from Saba shall come

All: Bringing gold and frankincense.

Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come to You.

Leader: 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.

Leader: 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 splendour of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

Leader: 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, each room of the home is sprinkled with Epiphany water and incensed. The initials of the Magi are inscribed upon the doors with the blessed chalk. (The initials, C, M, B, can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase 'Christus mansionem benedicat' which means 'Christ bless this house'.)

Example: 20 + C + M + B + 12

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