One tradition that occurs near the end of the Christmas Season is the annual blessing of homes around the Feast of the Epiphany. It is a beautiful tradition, because not only does it place God at the entrance of your home, it places your entire family under the protection of the Almighty and sets the tone for the rest of the year.
Before we look at how to administer the Epiphany blessing, let us briefly look at a passage from Scripture that reinforces the importance of this tradition:
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt…“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household…and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them….In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you.” (Exodus 12:1-13, emphasis added)
It is no coincidence that the Epiphany blessing is traditionally written on the lintel of the main doorway and even some of the prayers echo God’s words of protection that He gave to Moses. While the Epiphany blessing was not given to us in the same manner as it was to Moses, the Church provides it for our own spiritual benefit. The Church desires our salvation and so gives us beautiful sacramentals to assist us along the path to Eternal Life.
Traditionally, a priest blesses chalk on the Feast of the Epiphany. The blessing is as follows (from the Roman Ritual):
Bless, + O Lord God, this creature, chalk, and let it be a help to mankind. Grant that those who will use it with faith in your most holy name, and with it inscribe on the doors of their homes the names of your saints, Casper, Melchior, and Baltassar, may through their merits and intercession enjoyhealth in body and protection of soul; through Christ our Lord.
Once you acquire the blessed chalk, either a priest or “head of the household” can bless the home in the following manner:
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.
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.
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.
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, walk through the house and bless each room by sprinkling with Epiphany/holy 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 example
20 C+M+B 16
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 “16” standing for the decade and year. It is also popularly believed that the Kings’ initials stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“Christ bless this house”).
In the past, priests would visit each home in their parish after the Feast of the Epiphany, but it became more difficult to do that as parishes became larger and larger. That is why the “head of the household” (which if you are single or a widow is yourself) is permitted to do this blessing in place of the priest.
As a family, it is a beautiful tradition that gains more significance each year. The children enjoy it and you can always add Christmas hymns to help the younger children participate.
This blessing brings many graces upon those who practice it in faith and protects them from any spiritual enemies that may be lurking around.
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