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Sunday, January 8, 2017 Feast of the Epiphany (modern)

Genesis, chapter 22, Verse 12
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear god, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”

This was the last test of Abraham. It was by Abraham’s confidence and humility before God that all the peoples of the earth are blessed for God did not withhold from us his only son Jesus Christ in sacrifice for our sins.

Rabbinical sources record that there were 10 tests of Abraham:[1]

1)      God tells him to leave his homeland to be a stranger in the land of Canaan.

2)      Immediately after his arrival in the Promised Land, he encounters a famine.

3)      The Egyptians capture his beloved wife, Sarah, and bring her to Pharaoh.

4)      Abraham faces incredible odds in the battle of the four and five kings.

5)      He marries Hagar after not being able to have children with Sarah.

6)      God tells him to circumcise himself at an advanced age.

7)      The king of Gerar captures Sarah, intending to take her for himself.

8)      God tells him to send Hagar away after having a child with her.

9)      His son, Ishmael, becomes estranged.

10)  God tells him to sacrifice his dear son Isaac upon an altar.



Today would also be a good time to honor your Father in heaven by marking your home in chalk; publicly stating who’s you are.

Every year the Carmelite Pre-novitiate Community at Carith House in Chicago on the Feast of the Epiphany blesses their home.

We invite you to adopt this custom in your family. The family gathers to ask God’s blessing on their home and on those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.
A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 17. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2017 is the year.

Blessing the Chalk

V. Our help is the name of the Lord:
R. The maker of heaven and earth.
V. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
R. From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray.

Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Instructions for Blessing the Home

Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 17 while saying:

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and sixteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the New Year. Amen.

Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen

“Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and home. With time the chalk will fade. As it does we let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our heart and be manifest in our words and actions the Latin words, Christus mansionem benedictat, “May Christ bless the house.”

Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 Jn 4:15-19) http://www. carmelites.net/news/chalking-door-epiphany-house-blessing-2015/


Magi Plays and Feasting[2]

Like Christmas, epiphany was a favorite time for caroling; and like all great solemnities from the middle ages, epiphany encouraged mystery plays. These were called magi plays and featured the story of the Nativity, the slaughter of the Innocents, and the visit of the Magi. They were also quite boisterous: the character of Herod was portrayed as a raving lunatic, wreaking havoc with his wooden spear: hence Shakespeare's line about overacting-- "it out-herods Herod!" (Hamlet III.ii). Variations of these mystery plays have survived into the present day. And also like all great solemnities, Epiphany was a day for great feasting. Though the dishes varied, one consistently popular customs was Kings' or Twelfth-night cake, which included a small object that identified its finder as the "king" for the day. Many countries also use this occasion for the exchange of gifts.

Epiphany History[3]

Epiphany Day is a Christian holiday that marks the day that the Three Kings visited Jesus, having followed a star to reach him. They followed a bright star that foretold the birth of a new king, and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-3, 7-12).  This holiday is celebrated in Western Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. It is also known as the 12th Day of Christmas, as it falls twelve days after Christmas Day. Epiphany is the last day in the Christian season of Christmas.  In Western churches, it is celebrated on January 6.

Epiphany Facts & Quotes

·         Epiphany Day is celebrated as a public holiday in Sweden, Finland and Iceland. Denmark and Norway do not have the day off, but do hold special mass and church services. The day is also a holiday throughout much of Eastern Europe.
·         Frankincense, a perfume, and myrrh, anointing oil, were traditional gifts for kings during the time of Christ.  Bodies were also prepared for burial with these items.  These were the gifts that the wise men brought to the baby Jesus.
·         In Latin American culture, Epiphany, which means 'manifestation', is celebrated with plays and special songs that celebrate the coming of the three kings, or magi.  Children  place boxes of hay under their beds for the magi' camels, and in return they receive gifts.
·         In some Eastern Orthodox Christian communities, Epiphany is celebrated by a procession to the nearest river, lake, or pond.  The priest blesses the water and he throws a cross in the waves.  People dive into the water to retrieve the cross, and the one who finds it is thought to be particularly blessed in the New Year.
·         It’s a time to focus on the guiding star and the three men who out of curiosity followed the star to Jesus, -  Martin Modeús of the Church of Sweden

Epiphany Top Events and Things to Do

·         Take down any decorations, you should have taken these down on Knut’s Day, the day before Epiphany, but if you’ve been too busy eating, today is the day to get them down.
·         Sing We Three Kings, a traditional Epiphany hymn telling the story of the magi.
·         Go to an Orthodox service and witness an Epiphany procession.  This often includes pageantry of colorful robes and a large bowl of water centered in the middle of the church.  Churches are often decorated with flowers and greenery.
·         In some Western churches, church members share king cake, similar to the pastry served on Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  A coin or bean is cooked into the cake, and whoever receives them gets to wear a crown for a day.
·         Watch a Christmas themed movie. Our favorites include
1) Fanny and Alexander (1982), this film depicts a family in Uppsala, Sweden during the 1900s and is a national favorite.
2) Santa Claus (1990)
3) Elf (2003), Will Ferrell’s modern Christmas classic






[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1324268/jewish/What-Were-Abrahams-10-Tests.htm?gclid=CLaj4pKHzMkCFYVrfgod-PMMEQ

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