Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Epiphany, both the traditional date of January 6th and more recent “transferred date” of the Sunday between January 2nd and 8th, which is one of the marks used to end the traditional Christmas season. Growing up, all of our family traditions revolved around Christmas Day itself—opening presents, Christmas dinner and the like. After becoming active in the Church, Midnight Mass followed by a “first breakfast” was added.
Epiphany was an afterthought. At most, it was a day of excitement if the first day of school happened to wait until the next day. Even being active in the parish, Epiphany was often a day that it was hard to go to church after having two Holy Days of Obligation in as many weeks preceding.
One goal that Vanessa and I have made for our home is to try to celebrate more during the liturgical year, so this year, we intentionally spread our Christmas celebration over the 12 days. The grandparents made Christmas Day itself full of presents for our girls, while we gave a small gift each day throughout the season.
One tradition we’re starting is the Epiphany blessing of the home. The U.S. Bishop’s Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers book contains a lay-leader friendly version of the blessing from the liturgical Book of Blessings that we used. To help keep our kids involved (ages 3, 1 and 12-weeks), we included a “procession” throughout the house.
After the formal blessing rite, we sang We Three Kings while going from room to room in the house. In each room, we would pause while our oldest, Olivia, sprinkled one wall with Holy Water. Prior, we had explained to her about how Holy Water is special and not like regular water. The standard “no one plays with it and we are really careful with it” type thing.
For us, it went well and the procession was enough to get Olivia excited about it, which isn’t the norm for when we try to “do religion” at home. At one point, I motioned to Olivia to go ahead of me out of a room and she wouldn’t. With good manners, she shook her head and went behind me. I realized that she was mimicking the altar servers by following me very carefully with her hands at her chest holding the holy water to the next room.
A more common aspect of the blessing is using chalk to write on the door frame of the home. The tradition states you write the year with the initials CMB (like “2+0+C+M+B+1+3”). CMB stands for both the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), and the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates as “may Christ bless the house”.
We’re slackers that often fail to plan ahead though, so we didn’t have chalk handy. We’re also quite forgetful sometimes and I just remembered the huge tub of sidewalk chalk in the closet. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with doing that later today, eh?
For my wife and I, our families didn’t take advantage in our homes of the beauty of the liturgical calendar, save Christmas and Easter, so it’s easy to forget and not look ahead. Our goal for Advent 2013 is to have the Advent wreath unpacked before the 2nd week of Advent.
Nevertheless, we keep moving forward on bringing more of the Church into our homes. Be it Epiphany or Candlemas or the Blessing of St. Joseph’s Table, we have ample times to mark the passing of the year as a family with Christ in the center of the home and we’re looking forward to doing that better as each season arrives.