Today is the great Feast of the Epiphany – the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles!
The Greek word epiphany means manifestation. Jesus is being manifested to all the nations.
It seems that this Feast has always been one of special interest to children, perhaps because in many countries this is the day of gift-giving. But many of us remember as children, singing parodies of \”We Three Kings\”, usually \”smoking cigars\” that go BANG.
But it actually has great spiritual significance, for it shows that the Messiah-Savior came not only for his own people-the Jews-but for ALL people. Again, in many countries this is the time for blessing houses, as a way of sharing in the visit of the Magi to the Holy Father\’s small \”house\” in Bethlehem.
Our Chaplain told us of a tradition his mother had and that the adult-children have carried to this day. His mother would put aside the first Christmas card that depicts the Magi that arrived at their home. On the Feast of Epiphany she could put it above the front door. It would stay there throughout the year until the next Feast of the Epiphany. Some of us think that perhaps this is an abbreviation of another tradition from Europe.
It is the Epiphany Blessing in which the house can be blessed by a priest or the head of the house can do the Epiphany Blessing. This is a very popular tradition in Italy.
All gather around the main dorway. Prayers are said to bless the house. Then the leader takes a piece of chalk and writes over the lentil or along the doorposts the following letters:
20 + C + M + B + 18
20 = and
18 = signify the current year 2018
+ = separating the numbers and letters reference Christ by the Cross
C = Caspar
M = Melchior
B = Balthasar
These are the traditional names of the Three Kings. But the initials CMB also stand for a Latin phrase: Christus Mansionem Benedicat which means May Christ bless this home.
This Blessing in some sense is reminiscent of the blessings of the doorposts by the Hebrews in Egypt during the 10th plague, and the beginning of the Exodus.