Customs for celebrating the Epiphany

January 05, 2016
Source: District of the USA

Sanctify the Feast of the Epiphany with some devotional customs.

We offer here some Epiphany customs that can be practiced in commemoration of this great feast of Our Lord and Savior.


Vigil of the Epiphany: blessing of Epiphany Water and Chalk

It is customary in some places for parish priests to bless water on the eve of Epiphany, which is used for the blessing of homes the next day. Chalk for each family is also blessed so that they may mark the names of the Three Magi over their doors, as a witness of the Faith, to beseech salvific benefits, and protection against evil.

Blessings are extracted from volume III of Fr. Philip Weller's The Roman Ritual.


The blessing of Epiphany Water

The celebrant, vested in white stole and cope, comes before the high altar, preceded by acolytes bearing the processional cross and lighted candles. A vessel of water and a container of salt are prepared.

The Litany of the Saints is sung, during which time all kneel. After the invocation "That Thou wouldst grant eternal rest, etc.," the celebrant rises and sings the following two invocations:

V. That Thou wouldst bless + this water. R. We beseech Thee hear us.
V. That Thou wouldst bless + and sanctify + this water. R. We beseech Thee hear us.

The cantors continue the litany. The celebrant then says the Pater Noster silently until:

V. And lead us not into temptation. R. But deliver us from evil.

Psalm 28
Sacrifice to the Lord, ye sons of God; * bring to the Lord the offspring of rams.
Offer to the Lord praise and honor, offer glory to His name; * worship the Lord in His holy court.
The voice of the Lord booms over the waters, the God of majesty hath thundered, * the Lord rules over tempestuous waters.
The voice of the Lord hath power, * the voice of the Lord hath splendor.
The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars, * the Lord doth shatter the cedars of Lebanon.
And scattereth them to skip like a calf, * while His beloved gambol like the young of bison.
The voice of the Lord spreadeth flame into lightning; the voice of the Lord maketh the desert to tremble; * and the Lord shall shake the wilderness of Cades.
The voice of the Lord frighteneth deer to calve untimely, and strippeth bare the forests, * and in His heavens all sing: “Glory!”
The Lord is enthroned upon the flood, * the Lord shall reign as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people, * the Lord will bless His people with peace.
Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Psalm 45
Our God is refuge and strength, * a Helper in sorrows which often beset us.
Hence we fear not, though the earth be shaken * and the mountains sink in the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof should roar and foam, * and the mountains quake from its breakers.
Gay billows of the river gladden the city of God; * the Most High hath sanctified His dwelling.
God is in the midst of the city, it shall not be disturbed; * God will help it at earliest dawn.
The heathen were afflicted, and kingdoms brought low; * God spoke, and their land was dissolved.
The Lord of hosts is with us, * the God of Jacob is our protector.
Come ye and behold the works of the Lord, what desolation He hath wrought on their land! * He endeth wars through the boundaries of the earth.
He breaketh the bow and destroyeth weapons, * and shields He burneth in fire.
And He spoke: “Be still, and see that I am God! * I will be exalted by the heathen, I will be exalted by my own.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; * the God of Jacob is our protector.
Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Psalm 146
Praise ye the Lord, for it is good to laud Him; * joyful and worthy praise becometh our God.
The Lord rebuildeth Jerusalem, * and will gather the exiles of Israel.
He healeth the heart-broken, * and bindeth up their wounds.
He knoweth the number of stars, * and calleth all by name.
Great is our Lord and great His power, * His wisdom infinite.
The Lord raiseth up the meek, but the wicked He humbleth to the dust.
Sing ye to the Lord in thanksgiving; * praise our God on the harp;
Who covereth the heavens with clouds, * and prepareth rain for the earth.
Who maketh grass to grow on the hills * and herbs for lower creatures.
Who giveth to beasts their food, * and to little ravens that cry unto Him.
He placeth no trust in the strength of a steed, * nor doth man’s fleetness please Him.
The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him * and in them that trust in His mercy.
Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Exorcism against Satan and the apostate angels

We cast thee out, every unclean spirit, every devilish power, every assault of the infernal adversary, every legion, every diabolical group and sect, by the Name and power of our Lord Jesus + Christ, and command thee to fly far from the Church of God and from all who are made to the image of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Lamb +. Presume never again, thou cunning serpent, to deceive the human race, to persecute the Church of God, nor to strike the chosen of God and sift them as wheat +. For the Most High commands thee, + He to Whom thou didst hitherto in thy great pride presume thyself equal; He Who desireth that all men might be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth. God the Father + commandeth thee! God the Son + commandeth thee! God the Holy + Ghost commandeth thee! The majesty of Christ commands thee, the Eternal Word of God made flesh, + Who for the salvation of our race, lost through thy envy, humbled Himself and was made obedient even unto death; Who built His Church upon a solid rock, and proclaimed that the gates of hell should never prevail against her, and that He would remain with her all days, even to the end of the world! The Sacred Mystery of the Cross + commands thee, as well as the power of all Mysteries of Christian faith! + The most excellent Virgin Mary, Mother of God + commands thee, who in her lowliness crushed thy proud head from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception! The faith of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul and the other apostles + commands thee! The blood of the martyrs commands thee, as well as the pious intercession + of holy men and women!

Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure thee by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by the God Who so loved the world that He gave His Sole-Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but shall have life everlasting—cease thy deception of men and thy giving them to drink of the poison of eternal damnation; desist from harming the Church and fettering her freedom! Get thee gone, Satan, founder and master of all falsity, enemy of mankind! Give place to Christ in Whom thou didst find none of thy works; give place to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church which Christ Himself bought with His Blood! Be thou brought low under God’s mighty hand; tremble and flee as we call upon the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before Whom hell trembles, and to Whom the Virtues, Powers, and Dominations are subject; Whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unfailing voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of Hosts!

The cantors sing the following Antiphon and Canticle:

Antiphon: Today the Church is espoused to the heavenly Bridegroom, for in the Jordan Christ washes her sins: the Magi hasten with gifts to the regal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with water become wine, alleluia.

Canticle of Zachary (Luke 1.68-79)
Blessed + be the Lord God of Israel, * for He hath visited and redeemed His people,
And hath raised up the Abundance of salvation for us * in the lineage of David His servant.
Thus He foretold by the mouth of His holy prophets * who have been from times ancient;
That we might be saved from our enemies * from the hand of all that hate us.
Now is granted the mercy promised to our fathers, * remembering His holy covenant;
And the oath which He swore to Abraham our father * that He would extend to us;
That we, delivered from the hand of our enemies, * might serve Him without fear,
Living in holiness and righteousness * before Him all our days.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, * for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give knowledge of salvation to His people * the remission of their sins,
Through the bounteous mercy of our God * in which the Orient from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, * to direct our feet into the way of peace.
Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Or instead of the above, the Magníficat may be recited. At the end of either, the antiphon given above is repeated. Then the celebrant sings:

V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal thy Sole-Begotten Son to the Gentiles, grant that we who now know Thee by faith may be brought to the contemplation of Thy heavenly majesty. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, eternally. R. Amen.

The Blessing of the Water

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord. R. Who made heaven and earth.

From here the blessing of the water continues per the form for the usual lustral water (holy water) with the Exorcism of Salt, Exorcism of Water, Mixing of the Salt and Water and the Concluding Prayer.

The celebrant then sprinkles the people with the blessed water. Lastly, the Te Deum is sung.

The blessed water is then given to the faithful who will use it to bless the sick and their homes.


Vigil of the Epiphany: blessing of Epiphany Chalk

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord. R. Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.

Bless, + O Lord God, this creature chalk, to render it helpful to men. Grant that they who use it with faith in Thy most holy Name, and with it inscribe upon the entrance of their homes the names of Thy Saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Baltassar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The chalk is sprinkled with holy water and then distributed to the faithful to use to inscribe the lintels of their houses.


Epiphany Day: blessing of the lintel and home

Lintel inscription: 20 + C + M + B + 16

The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also abbreviate the Latin words “Christus mansionem benedicat.” “May Christ bless the house.” The letters recall the day on which the inscription is made, as well as the purpose of blessing.

The crosses represent the protection of the Precious Blood of Christ, whom we invoke, and the holiness of the Three Magi sanctified by their adoration of the Infant Christ. The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God’s blessing.

The month of January still bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing “christens” the ancient Roman observance of the first month. The inscription is made of chalk, a product of clay, which recalls the human nature taken by the Adorable and Eternal Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

To bless your home this Epiphany, read the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel (i.e., the Last Gospel used at Mass), followed by the Our Father, and the Collect of the Epiphany; then write the inscription for this year above your front door with blessed chalk.

The lintel of the main door of the house (and other doors if desired) is marked by a senior member of the household (usually the father) in the following way: 20 + C + M + B + 16

Whilst saying the following prayer:

The Three Wise Men, Caspar C (write the letter), Melchior M and Balthazar B followed the star of God’s Son Who became man, Two Thousand 20 and Sixteen years ago 16. May Christ bless our home ++ (inscribe the first two crosses), and remain with us through the new year ++ (then the last two crosses)."

If others are present, you may continue:

Almighty God, incline your ear. Bless us and all who are gathered here. Send your holy angel who will defend us and fill with grace all who dwell here. R. Amen."

The senior member may then proceed to sprinkle the interior of the home with the blessed Epiphany Water.