07 January 2008
Epiphany home blessing
Several years ago I spent Epiphany in Naplion, Greece. In Greece, Epiphany is celebrated with a blessing of the waters. When we were there, it seemed the entire village was assembled at the water front and a huge ceremony took place. My husband and I watched all the pomp from our perch on the hillside. The town had a huge fort on top of a very high hill. We climbed up all the steps to the fort only to find that there was a paved road that we could've taken instead!
Epiphany is the feast of Ayía Theofánia, or Fóta, which celebrates the day when the “kalikántzari” or hobgoblins that appeared during the period of Christmas are re-banished to the netherworld by the church’s rites. During Epiphany, waters are blessed and evil spirits are banished. At lakeside, seaside or riverside locations, the priests throw a cross into the water and young locals dive to compete for the privilege and blessing of finding it. For his gallantry, the first man who recovers the cross is said to have good luck throughout the coming year. The day long festival also features the blessing of small boats and ships, and later on affords entertainment, music, dancing and food to all those present.
One thing I love that St. Agnes does is bless chalk during Mass that you can take home for your own home blessing. Below are the instructions for the Epiphany Home Blessing from the parish bulletin:
All assemble by the front door (or outside of it, if weather permits)
Leader: Peace to this house.
All: And to all who live or enter here.
Leader: Wise men came from the east, to pay homage to the Lord, and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts.
All: Gold for His kingship, Incense to proclaim Him God, and Myrrh for the day of His burial.
Mary's Canticle (Luke 1:46-55) is then read (by one or all). The verse and response are repeated, and the Lord's Prayer is recited, before continuing with:
Leader: All from Sheba shall come.
All: Bearing gold and frankincense.
Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come unto You.
Leader: Let us pray. (All pray briefly in silence.) Father you revealed your Son to the nations, by the guidance of a star. Lead us to your glory and our eternal home by the light of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
With chalk, or crayon, an inscription is made above the door:
20 + C + M + B + 08
The letters represent the Magi. The enclosing year represents the timeless God. Each cross marks a point of the compass or "all the nations."
Leader: Arise! Shine! Jerusalem, your light has come.
All: Kings by your shining radiance.
Leader: Lord, Almighty God, bless this home. Let here abide health and goodness, humility and faith, and every triumph over sin. Let Your Word be obeyed and fulfilled here, and thanksgiving be ever made to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.
All then re-enter the home, singing God's Praises in a suitable Christmas/Epiphany hymn.