Monthly Archives: January 2012

Epiphany Chalk Blessing

Friday we will celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, and so in preparation, I wanted to share a traditional Epiphany practice which we still celebrate in my own parish.  In the East, Epiphany is called Theophany, and it is celebrated January 13th in commemoration of the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan; but in the West it is celebrated January 6th, and is generally associated with the visitation of the Magi to the infant Jesus.  Both of these events call to mind the recognition of the manifestation of the Divine Light in the world.  There are many traditional practices for Epiphany, including the special blessing of holy water for the sacrament of Baptism, after which parishioners usually take home small bottles of Epiphany water for use in their devotional practices.

But one interesting and ancient practice that has been somewhat lost in recent years is the Epiphany chalk blessing.  On January 6, after the Epiphany water has been blessed, the priest then blesses chalk, along with frankincense and myrrh for the congregation to take home to bless their houses.  Sometimes people bring their own gold jewelry to also have blessed, thus representing the three gifts of the Holy Magi.  I would love to discuss the symbolism of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; however the focus here tonight is on the chalk blessing.  The origins of this blessing are lost in time, but the chalk is used to inscribe the initials of the names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) along with the year above the door of one’s home, to bring God’s blessing of prosperity to all throughout the following year.  The initials remain above the door until Pentecost, at which time they may be washed off.  The color of the chalk is not important, as long as it’s visible against the backdrop of the lintel.

Blessing of the Chalk
To be done by a priest at church

℣.  Our help is the name of the Lord.
℟.  Who hath made heaven and earth.

℣.  The Lord be with you.
℟.  And with thy spirit.

℣.  Let us pray.

+ Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk
to render it helpful to Thy people.
Grant that they who use it in faith,
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes
the names of Thy saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar,
may, through their merits and intercession,
enjoy health of body, and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Indwelling Lord.  Amen.

The chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.

The blessing rite may be concluded by singing We Three Kings (lyrics below).

***

Blessing Your Home

This blessing should be done upon entering your house, or at any time during the octave of Epiphany.

℣.  Peace be to this house.
℟.  And to all who dwell herein.

℣.  From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King; incense for the True God; and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Magnificat

During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and censed with frankincense and myrrh. (An alternative, though not the traditional practice, may be to recite Psalm 72 followed by the Glory Be, a psalm of praise to the King, a request for prosperity, and has historically been interpreted as a prophesy of the Magi.)

All.  My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generation upon them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath receivedIsrael, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He promised to our Fathers, Abraham and his seed forever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the True God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

When this is completed, follow it with the Pater Noster.

℣.  Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and  forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

℣.  And lead us not into temptation, 
℟.  But deliver us from evil.

℣.  All they from Saba shall come,
℟.  Bringing gold and frankincense.

℣.  O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟.  And let my cry come unto Thee.

℣. The Lord be with you.
℟.  And with thy spirit.

℣.  Let us pray. O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine alone-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Indwelling Lord.

℟.  Amen.

℣.  Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee — Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

℟.  And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

℣.  Let us pray. + Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, and thanksgiving to God the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. And may Thy blessing remain upon this home, and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Indwelling Lord.

℟.  Amen.

After the prayers of the blessing are recited, walk through the house and bless each room by sprinkling with Epiphany water and censing it.

Then take the blessed chalk, and first write the initials of the three Magi, connected with Crosses, over the inside of your front door (on the lintel, if possible). Then write the year, breaking up the number so that two digits fall on either side of the initials. It should look something like this:

20 + C + M + B + 12

The “20” being the millennium and century; “12” the decade and year; “C” for the first Wise Man, Caspar of Tarsus, who brought the gift of myrrh; “M” for Melchior of Arabia, who brought gold; “B” for Balthazar of Ethiopia, who brought frankincense. Additionally, it is popularly believed that the Magi’s initials also stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“Christ bless this house”).

The chalk markings remain over the door until Pentecost.

It is a popular custom among some people that all who enter or re-enter their home for the first time after the blessing should step with their right foot across the threshold so as to start things off “on the right foot.”

When Epiphany is over, the feeling of Christmastide begins to wane a bit. Though the Season of Christmas liturgically ends on 13 January (the Octave of the Epiphany), the celebration of Christ’s entry into the world and His childhood doesn’t truly end until Candlemas (The Feast of the Presentation and Purification) on 2 February, when we celebrate Christ being presented in the Temple, and Mary’s Purification. Then the remembering of Christ’s infancy and Divine Childhood gives way to preparation for Lent.

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Twelfth Day of Christmas: God Created Man in His Own Image

The Twelfth Day of Christmas
Evening of January 5th

Tonight we celebrate the last day of Christmas before Epiphany, and meditate on the qualities of Pisces: adaptability, generosity, openness to emotions, receptivity, affection, and honesty; and on the negative side, scatter-brained, needy, intense, unreliability, unmotivated, gullible, indecisive.  This day is also associated St. Peter, who, through his faith, became a rock of initiation.  While meditating, feel free to visualize the symbol of Pisces displayed below, focus on an icon or holy card of St. Peter, or simply light a pink candle.

Read the following scripture, and then focus on the negative qualities of Pisces that you recognize in yourself.

“So God created man in His own image.” – Genesis 1:27

Knowing that you can move past these negative aspects of yourself, read the following scripture, and meditate upon the positive qualities of Pisces you possess.  Remember that we are the very image of the Divine, and as God possesses all qualities, it is in balancing the positive and negative that we can realize our own divine nature.  It is the illusory nature of this world that causes us to divide pairs of opposites into “this” and “that,” but the reconciliation of opposites is assuredly the foundation – the rock – of True Initiation.  Can a foundation stone be anything but balanced?  It’s fitting on this night before Epiphany to seek this “rock,” as some may be preparing to receive the initiatory sacrament of Baptism tomorrow, while others may be recalling our own baptism, and what receiving this holy sacrament truly means.

“He is perfect, the invisible God to whom one speaks in silence: His image is moved when it is directed, and it governs.Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth

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Eleventh Day of Christmas: Ye Are My Friends

The Eleventh Day of Christmas
Evening of January 4th

Tonight we meditate on the qualities of Aquarius: creativity, progressiveness, stimulation, independence, non-judgmental, loyal, dignified; and on the negative side, unemotional, intractability, perverseness, coldness.  This day is also associated St. Matthew, who renounced all worldly possessions.  While meditating, feel free to visualize the symbol of Aquarius displayed below, focus on an icon or holy card of St. Matthew, or simply light a blue candle.

Read the following scripture, and then focus on the negative qualities of Aquarius that you recognize in yourself.

“Ye are my friends.John 15:4

Knowing that you can move past these negative aspects of yourself, read the following scripture, and meditate upon the positive qualities of Aquarius you possess.  The negative qualities of Aquarius can sometimes  make it difficult to make and keep close friends, and often puts other people off – but its qualities of loyalty and a non-judgmental nature produce a humanitarian and progressive nature that balances itself out.  It is this progressiveness, along with a love for independence that can free us of all attachment to the world, just as St. Matthew, so that we may receive the Gnosis of Life, Liberty, Love, and Light.

“Entrust yourself to this pair of friends: reason and mind; and no one will be victorious over you.The Teachings of Silvanus

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Tenth Day of Christmas: Let the Christ Be Formed in You

The Tenth Day of Christmas
Evening of January 3rd

Tonight we meditate on the qualities of Capricorn: ambition, patience, responsibility, stability, trustworthiness, persistence, honesty; and on the negative side, pessimism, melancholy, a demanding nature, unwillingness to listen to others’ opinions.  This day is also associated St. Simon, brother of James and Jude, whose one desire was to serve the Lord.  While meditating, feel free to visualize the symbol of Capricorn displayed below, focus on an icon or holy card of St. Simon, or simply light a black candle.

Read the following scripture, and then focus on the negative qualities of Capricorn that you recognize in yourself.

He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.” – Gospel of Thomas, 108

Knowing that you can move beyond these negative aspects of yourself, read the following scripture, and meditate upon the positive qualities of Capricorn you possess.  St. Simon was at first reluctant about accepting the divinity of the Lord, despite their close family ties.  But when he was finally awakened by the Christ, his dedication was complete.  Know that through patience and persistence, you too can overcome any pessimism or doubt in your mind, and cultivate the singular desire to serve the Lord, so that neither life nor death will have any meaning for you.

“Let the Christ be formed in you.Galatians 4:19

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Ninth Day of Christmas: Ye Are the Light of the World

The Ninth Day of Christmas
Evening of January 2nd

Tonight we meditate on the qualities of Sagittarius: ethics, humor, generosity, honesty, intelligence, independence, open-heartedness, compassion, and energy; and on the negative side, boastfulness, tactlessness, lacking in concentration, impatience, bluntness, argumentative.  This day is also associated St. Philip, and a spiritualized mind.  While meditating, feel free to visualize the symbol of Sagittarius displayed below, focus on an icon or holy card of St. Philip, or simply light a green candle.

Read the following scripture, and then focus on the negative qualities of Sagittarius that you recognize in yourself.

Samael said, ‘If any other thing exists before me, let it become visible to me!’ And immediately Sophia stretched forth Her finger and introduced light into matter; and She pursued it down to the region of chaos.” – Hypostasis of the Archons

Knowing that you can move beyond these negative aspects of yourself, read the following scripture, and meditate upon the positive qualities of Sagittarius you possess.  Samael, in his ignorance and boastfulness believed himself to be the One True God, but Sophia brought the Light of Spirit into the world he created, so that we may overcome the hold the demiurge has on us.  Holy Philip is the perfect example to follow on the Path of Light – before he found the Lord, he had no idea what a spiritualized or Christed mind would mean in his life.  He was a mentalist, or in Gnostic terms, a hylic.  But after the light of Christ was shed up him, he became worthy to be numbered among the Immortal Twelve.

 “Ye are the light of the world.”Matthew 5:14

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Eighth Day of Christmas: Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

The Eighth Day of Christmas
Evening of January 1st

Tonight we meditate on the qualities of Scorpio: intensity, determination, passion, intuition, power, rebirth; and on the negative side, jealousy, introversion, distrustfulness, tendency toward pride.  This day is also associated St. John the Beloved.  Transmutation was the keynote of his life, and he progressed so far in the divine science of transmuting matter into spirit, that some say he never knew death.  While meditating, feel free to visualize the symbol of Scorpio displayed below, focus on an icon or holy card of St. John, or simply light a brown candle.

Read the following scripture, and then focus on the negative qualities of Scorpio that you recognize in yourself.  It’s interesting that some of the “negative” qualities here also have the capability of being positive, and some of the “positive” qualities can, in fact, become quite negative.  For these meditations, don’t stick strictly to the negative/positive separation presented here – rather, consider both aspects of qualities such as passion, power, pride, and introversion.

Do not, then, let terms trouble thee; action and passion are both the selfsame thing. ” – Corpus Hermeticum, 12:11

Knowing that you can move beyond these negative aspects of yourself, read the following scripture, and meditate upon the positive qualities of Scorpio you possess.  St. John’s association with transmutation, and Scorpio’s quality of rebirth are closely related.  At this time when we welcome the new solar year of the civil calendar, let the dross matter that is weighing you down burn away, and be reborn.  St. John is the perfect model for the inner tradition of Christianity – he alone listened to the heartbeat of God, as he rested his head upon His chest.  Remember that introversion is not really a bad quality, for turning inward and being still is the only way we will ever be able to hear the heartbeat of God for ourselves.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8

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