Tag Archives: Epiphany

Epiphany Sunday

EpiphanyToday the Latin Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany, a move that slightly changes the idea of the 12 Days of Christmas; this move is less than optimal but I can see why it is done given that Catholics will not come to worship God on the actual day. The traditional day is that the Epiphany is observed on is January 6.

The feast of the Epiphany is an earlier feast than the celebration of Christmas. Theologically an epiphany is a manifestation, a revelation of God; Epiphany is also called Theophany. Think of Moses meeting God on the Mount in the experience of the burning bush.

Yet, the feast is not only about the recognition of the Wise Men –though important because the Magi demonstrate that we, from all nations, ought to adore the Lord– but in the feast we keenly see that Jesus’ mission is revealed and accepted. In the sacred Liturgy we pray at Vespers (in the Latin Church) the antiphons note that the Lord is baptized in the Jordan by his cousin, John, and that that his first miracle of changing water into wine; thus setting the trajectory of salvation history in motion. The spinning out of a Sunday celebrating the Lord’s baptism is a later fact.

A side note, the Eastern Churches maintain the Epiphany is a holy day –the Maronites have it as a day of obligation. The Epiphany is such  significant feast that it must not be overlooked or casually winked-at. Several customs of the churches in the period of the Epiphany come to mind: blessing of incense and chalk, the blessing of water, the blessing of homes, the blessing of fruits (remember the Armenian blessing of pomegranates that I posted the other!).

Saint Leo the Great preached: “This is the day that Abraham saw and was glad. Knowing that in his offspring, that is, in Christ, the children of his faith would be blessed, and for seeing that his faith would make him the father of all nations, he gave glory to God in complete confidence he was able to do what he had promised.”

And Saint Basil the Great said this in a homily: “Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its savior in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, Dust you are and to dust you shall return, but “You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.”

Both reflections by these saints ought to give us some important data: that God fulfills his promises and that we are given the gift of eternal life now (not only at death in a definitive way). The prayers of the Liturgy not spoken of here but hinted at pray that our hearts and minds be changed unto that what is of God. They speak of conversion, of truly accepting the fact of Jesus as Lord and Savior. Hence we can say that every Liturgy is an epiphany!


Epiphany: A recognition

Epiphany c1350The 12th Day of Christmas is upon us with the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The Magi, the Star, the three  gifts, the angels, the shepherds and the animals all coalesce to manifest in-breaking of God in human history. All recognized and read the signs. Two different church fathers give perspective on the meaning of the Epiphany as the great manifestation of the Divine.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the Epiphany in this way:

“The wise men from the East lead the way…They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more. They wanted to understand what being human is all about. They had doubtless heard of the prophecy of the Gentile prophet Balaam: “A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num 24:17) (January 6, 2012).

Saint Basil the Great spoke of the Epiphany in this way: “The star came to rest above the place where the child was. At the sight of it the wise men were filled with great joy and that great joy should fill our hearts as well. It is the same as the joy the shepherds received from the glad tidings brought by the angels. Let us join the wise men in worship and the shepherds in giving glory to God. Let us dance with the angels and sing: ‘To us is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us’, not as God which would have terrified us in our weakness, but as a slave in order to free those living in slavery. Could anyone be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join us all in our gladness, exultation, and radiant joy? This feast belongs to the whole universe… Stars across the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives it savior in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, ‘Dust you are and to dust you shall return’, but ‘You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.’”

Journey of the Magi


A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, 
 Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, 
 And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
 And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
 Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
 Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation:
 With a running stream and a water-mill beating

the darkness
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow,
 Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
 Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
 And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
 And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
 Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
 And I would do it again, but set down

This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death: There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was 
 Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
 We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
 But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
 With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot

Benedict XVI to new bishops: Our criterion is the Lord himself…fear of God frees us

Adoration of Magi GPreviati CL poster 2012.jpg

We honor the witness of the Magi, Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. The Seekers from the East following the signature of God to the star burning brightly over the Light of the World. Saint John
Chrysostom taught, “If the Magi had come in search of an earthly king, they
would have been disconcerted at finding that they had taken the trouble to come
such a long way for nothing. Consequently they would have neither adored nor
offered gifts. But since they sought a heavenly king, though they found in him
no signs of royal pre-eminence, yet, content with the testimony of the star
alone, they adored: for they saw a man, and they acknowledged a God.”

As you know Pope Benedict ordained 4 priests to the Order of Bishops today at the Sacrifice of the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The Pope, per usual, hits the ball out of the park. He speaks eloquently about the ministry of the bishop for the Church. I read the following homily with astonishment. I am in awe of the profound nature of the vocation; I am sad to know so many called to this office by the Spirit and the Church live it with such lack of faith, hope, and charity, with a lack of mercy and the good of the people put in his charge. On this feast we pray for all the pastors of the Church, including the bishops. Let’s look with mercy as the Lord has shown us mercy. Pay close attention to Pope.

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Blessing of Chalk

Christmas-related themes, very present in Gil ...

Gil Vicente’s Epiphany

On this feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Church teaches us that this is a yet another important the manifestation of the Eternal Incarnate Word of God. Since we Catholics view creation with a particular lens, that is a sacramental lens, it is traditional for the priest to bless chalk and incense today; most often you see this blessing in the Polish Catholic community but it’s a really a catholic custom for all people.

We can note two meanings of the letters of inscription. First, the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Second, the letters abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat. May Christ bless the house.” Hence, the purpose of the blessing is to manifest Grace. The recalling that the Magi were the first of the nations to recognize the Divine Infant as the King of the Nations, and to acknowledge that we seek the face of God. The blessing and imposition of chalk reminds us that God is the origin of all blessings of our home and life.

By placing the crosses with the Epiphany inscription we remember that with the Incarnation there is also the Paschal Mystery.

As it noted by students of culture, the Epiphany inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God’s blessing. “The month of January still bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing of “christens” is the ancient Roman observance of the first month. The inscription is made of chalk, a product of clay, which recalls the human nature taken by the Adorable and Eternal Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit” (MDK).

To bless your home this Epiphany, first read the Prologue of Saint John’s Gospel, followed by the Our Father, and the following Collect; then write the inscription for this year above your front door with blessed chalk.

Blessing of Chalk

V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk to render it helpful to Thy people. Grant that they who use it in faith and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes the names of Thy saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord.

And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.

Epiphany Inscription over the Doorway of the Home

20 + C + M + B + 13

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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