by Fr. David Matz, C.PP.S., Sonnino Mission House, Berkeley
I guess for me, my love for the Epiphany started Way back in my first year of formation with the Precious Blood.
I was working at St. James in the inner-city Kansas City and developed a love for the “authentic” 12 days of Christmas. I knew I was doing something subversive with the culture around me because for others Christmas started on Thanksgiving or before and Advent became a lost season. So, I was one of those, “It’s not Christmas yet!” While going to Christmas parties that started literally, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
My friends at St. James, helped me to research traditions that were abandoned long ago by my own family, the actual 12 days of Christmas, putting up the living Christmas tree after December 16th. In our family we always tried to keep the tree up until the 12 of January because of the slew of birthdays in my family, beginning with my mother on December 23rd, my oldest and youngest brothers and concluding with my twin Donald’s and my own birthday on January 12th.
So, I prepared. Advent was preparation time, cookies, cakes, lights, decorations, and trees, all preparing for that 12 days. Because with all the work in the Church, I never did get home to the family until the evening of Christmas Day.
Now in community, it made it more special that Gaspar del Bufalo was born on January 6th. So, given my love the Twelfth Night fostered in me by some very dear friends who would soon to become Companions, we began the Epiphany party on January 6th or the Sunday nearby, to not only have a birthday party for Gaspar but to be a light in the darkness at our house on Rockhill Road.
What a party!
It was shortly afterward that I became aware of the blessing of the door on the Epiphany. And an even more spiritual plunge into the mysteries we celebrate on the Epiphany.
Epiphany means to “reveal” a “manifestation” of something divine. We celebrate the three epiphanies of Jesus. The Magi acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah, Son of God and Savior of the world; the Baptism of Jesus by John, and can you guess it? The miracle of the wine at the wedding at Canaan.
We mark our doors and ask God’s blessing upon all those who dwell within the home and to always maintain a door open to welcome the presence of Christ, most especially in the strangers who knock on our doors. This blessing is done because of the Magi’s visit to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Bethlehem. We have conflated the infant narratives to believe they came to the Manger (Luke), but in Matthew’s Gospel, they enter the house where the Holy family was staying. They entered through a door, Gaspar (Caspar), Melchior, and Balthazar, interesting note: we don’t really know the number of Magi, we only know of the three gifts offered: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The blessing of the main portal or door, using chalk, we place the sign: “20 + C + M + B +20.” Caspar and Gaspar are derivatives of the same name. But the “CMB” literally stands for, “May Christ Bless this House.” “Cristus Mansomen Benedicat.” This is an outward sign of our dedication to Christ! That we will honor the presence of Christ in all who dwell in our home, and to all, we welcome into it through its main portal! Christ present in our midst.
I want to conclude these words by Fr. Larry Gillick. “In the darkness of these days in which we live, Epiphany is a feast of dayspring, because God’s light only comes to us thoroughly mingles with the grubby reality of human life. Why else would he become an infant?”
Jesus Christ did not arrive to erase our troubles but to join us in them, to be a quiet light in our darkness, not a blinding replacement for the dark.
So, we must be like the Magi, We must have our own puzzling, sleepless nights and we must search and search and never rest until we see the Light as God chose to reveal it!
That search leads us to take through the doors of our houses and to take the Christlight of compassion, mercy, and love into the darkness of our own world.
Can I end with a story? It’s one of my favorites: One ominously dark night a father asks his young child to go out to the barn to feed the horses. It was dark outside and there was no light illuminating the path to the barn. “Daddy, I can’t go!” Cried the son, “I’m afraid of the dark!” When the dad looked outside, he noticed the ominous darkness. He brought out a lantern, which shown brightly. “Take this lantern,” said the father.
“You see the end of the light?” The son replied, “Yes. I can see to the fence.” “Now walk to the edge of the light, right to the fence.” The son did just what Dad had asked. “Now how far can you see?” The son replied, “I can see to the barn!” Dad said, “Then walk to the barn. Now, what can you see?” The son replied, “I see the horses.” The Dad said, “Good, now feed the horses!”