Isaiah 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
This is the Eastern Church’s Christmas. In ancient times an Epiphany meant either the showing of a god or the solemn visit of a ruler, considered a god, to the cities of his realm. So the birth of Christ was truly the coming of God to his people.
The clergy in Alexandria, Egypt, picked January 5-6th to replace a pagan celebration of the birthday of Aion, god of time and eternity. The pagan priests would draw water from the Nile and store it for ritual purposes. It was claimed to turn into wine using divine power. The Christian feast celebrated: 1) the Birth of Christ, 2) His baptism and 3) the first miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. They also developed the practice of doing baptisms on that day thus further replacing the pagan water rites. In the second half of the 4th century the Eastern and Western Churches adopted each other’s feast of celebrating Christ’s birthday yet with a different emphasis.
The vision of the Magi
Since the Western Church had Christ’s Birth on December 25th, to replace a Roman pagan celebration, the focus of the Epiphany was the visit of the Three Kings or Magi. This represented the pagan world coming to worship the true God.
According to Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich, in “The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelation,” Vol 1, these men were given a vision of the Birth of Christ as they watched the special star the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They knew from ancient prophecies a new king was born who would change human history.
They left the next day to bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their travel took 33 days on fast camels instead of 66 days. The star guided them by night and a bright angel by day.
Their names were: Mensor, a Caldean, Seir and Theokeno, Medianites. After the death of Jesus, the apostle, Thomas, baptized the first and last Magi. Seir desired baptism but had already passed away.
The Three Kings connection to blessing homes
The designation of “kings” first came from Caesarius of Arles in the 6th century and the names: Caspar, Melchoir and Balthasar came from a Polish tradition in the 9th century. The first letter of their names also stands for the Latin abbreviation, meaning Christ bless this mansion (house), CMB.
Since the Middle Ages there has been the custom of blessing homes with holy water, incense and marking the top main entrance door frame of the home with blessed chalk and the designation of: 20+C+M+B+18, for this year.
Blessing your home
Since I am not present in your home physically, I offer this blessing for your dwelling.
“Father God, I bless all the homes or apartments of those reading this prayer. May their homes or apartments be places of goodness, humility, self-control, purity of mind, body and spirit, mutual respect for one another, hospitality for strangers and loving obedience to your Word, for those living there and all those who come to visit them this year. I pray in Jesus holy Name as we worship Jesus, Emmanuel, God always with us” (Isaiah 7:11 and Matthew 1:23}.
Now sprinkle your home with holy water.
God is now pouring out more “Fire of his love.” From those who attend daily Mass, he desires that some of them, who have been pierced with more of his love for them, gather frequently in small groups outside of Mass, to sing and praise Jesus. They can sing some praise and worship hymns and share some of their spiritual growth. Jesus promises that he will fill these people with more of his love.
This new intensity is going to attract more people to come into deeper faith and understanding. Jesus calls these praise groups, “Fire groups.” Gather a few friends with you praising Jesus and see what he wants to do for you.
Have a blessed and abundant New Year.
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2018 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)