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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Epiphany (Date of celebration for the Eastern Churches)

The feast of Epiphany in the Catholic Church is traditionally celebrated on January 6th. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, hence the origins of the song, "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of God as a human. The Roman church commemorates the visitation of the Magi (three kings or wise sages) to the infant Jesus. This is the day of recognition that the whole world, beyond the Jewish people, would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.

The magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh as gifts to the child, Jesus. In the Western Church some households celebrate this feast by getting water, gold, frankincense and chalk blessed at church. The chalk is used to write the initials of the three magi over the doors of churches and homes. The letters, CMB, stand for Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three magi, but also Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates as "may Christ bless the house."

Finally the ancient custom on solemnly announcing the date of Easter and the church year occurs on the feast of Epiphany. This was done in a time when reading and writing was not widespread. It set the celebrations of the liturgical years once the priests determined the date of Easter.

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