Epiphany, also historically known as “Little Christmas,” marks the end of Christmas celebrations in Western Christendom on January 6th. The arrival of the Magi is often remembered as part of these celebrations. Although scripture never numbers the gentile Magi who came to worship Jesus, a tradition developed that there were three; each one baring a special gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They became popularly known as Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar and are often artistically represented as being of different peoples and races, for Jesus came to offer salvation to all.
Over time, a popular custom began to bless one’s home on Epiphany with the words in Latin, Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ bless this house). I surmise this was because of the biblical scene from Matthew 2: 1-12. (Jesus was no longer in the stable but described to be in a house with his own family when the Magi visit.) Yet, I have not confirmed the origin of this practice. The first letter from each word of this blessing corresponds to the traditional names given the Magi. Which came first – the blessing or the names – remains a mystery, but their development within popular culture is likely related.
As we move forward into a new year, I suggest use of a simple blessing ceremony I have adapted from the internet. You can further adapt it to meet your family’s needs:
Once gathered, all may make the Sign of the Cross.
Leader: Peace be to this house and to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.
All: Blessed be God forever.
Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
Using chalk, write on the outside of your house’s door or frame (alternatively, on a path or driveway, or above or next to an entrance):
+ 20 C M B 14 +
This stands for the first half of the current year written out, Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house), then the other half of the current year written out. Start and end with a cross.
Optionally, the entire phrase may be written out. Each marking or word could be written by a varied member of the household if desired. The leader can share a prayer of their own or simply ask God to bless your home as the markings are made.
When finished, all can join in a closing prayer – “Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
May a joyful and blessed Epiphany be yours!
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.