Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Twelve days of Christmas (you know the song) bring us to today, The Epiphany of the Lord. In the American Catholic Church, the Solemnity is celebrated the first Sunday after January 1st (the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God), which happens to fall on the 8th this year. But, much of the rest of the small-o orthodox traditions celebrate today. For some, it is their Christmas Day, for others it is the Baptism of the Lord. In all, it is a day to focus our attention on God and what He has done for us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For Catholics, Epiphany is the finding of the newborn babe by the Magi and what it signifies for us.
I like to recall the rich symbolism and even foreshadowing in the Nativity and Epiphany stories. Jesus was born in a shepherd’s cave just outside of Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem. This is where the sheep and lambs were carefully tended, as the one-year-old lambs were destined for the Passover sacrifice and had to remain “unblemished” (Exodus 12:5). The swaddling clothes in which Jesus was wrapped were likely first used on a lamb, and the manger (feeding trough) he was placed in likely contained a lamb or two the night before. Shepherds would swaddle the lambs and place them up in the mangers to keep their mothers from stepping on them — to protect them from blemish.
Of course, this setting is full of significance, not least the fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham, Moses, and all of God’s people through the ages in the once and for all perfect sacrifice of the Son of God himself. “Behold the Lamb of God,” as the forerunner, John the Baptist, cries out when he sees Jesus at the Jordan. The Bread of Life (the Manna come down from Heaven) is placed in a feeding trough (signifying the Eucharist). This is no accident.
I find myself grateful that there was no room at the inn.
The Magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh to offer the babe born in lowly poverty. Most of us are likely familiar with the symbolism of these gifts: gold for Christ’s Kingship, frankincense (offered in the temple sacrifices) for his Priesthood, and myrrh (for the anointing of the dead) to signify God made Man and become mortal. He is Prophet, and we know what happens to prophets (Nehemiah 9:26):
“But they became disobedient and rebelled against You,
And cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets who had admonished them
So that they might return to You.”
But, Christians consider even this mortality of the Messiah to be good news. Were it not for the “happy fault” of Adam and the Jews inability to keep the covenant, we might not have had God himself come to save us. And this is the further significance of the worship by the Magi. They were gentiles like us, and Jesus came for them, too.
Catholics are encouraged to bless their households for the new year today. Here’s an example of the prayers offered:
Leader: In the (+) name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Let the glory of Emmanuel be upon this household! Legend gives these names to the Lord’s visitors: Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar. Let their initials sign this doorway (writing in chalk across the transom), along with four crosses, and the numerals of the new year
20 + C + M + B + 23
Let us pray: Christus Mansionem Benedicat, “May Christ bless this house!” May Christ bless us all, now and forever Amen.
Leader: A reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (2:19-20)
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with saints. You are God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
The Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!
(In each room of the house, the leader prays for God’s blessing and invites someone to sprinkle the room with holy water)
Living Room: “In you we live and move and have our being. Bless this room, O Lord, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Kitchen: “You crown the year with bounty and goodness. Bless this room, O Lord, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Dining room: “Holy wisdom, you call us to your banquet. Bless this room, O Lord, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Bedrooms: “Keep watch over us as we sleep. Bless this room, O Lord, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Bathroom: “You cleanse us by water and your word. Bless this room, O Lord, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(Return to the front door and pray together the prayer Jesus taught us) Our Father. . .
Everyone blesses himself with holy water and prays: “Lord our God, we ask you to bless (+) this household through all the days to come. We praise you and thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen!”Published in