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Online Edition - Vol. VIII, No. 9: December 2002 - January 2003

Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany

From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
December 2001

118. Many traditions and genuine manifestations of popular piety have been developed in relation to the Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany, which is of ancient origin and rich in spiritual content. Among such forms of popular piety, mention may be made of :

· the solemn proclamation of Easter and the principal dominical feasts; its revival in many places would be opportune since it served to make the connection between the Epiphany and Easter, and to orient all feasts towards the greatest Christian solemnity;

· the exchange of "Epiphany gifts", which derives from the gifts offered to Jesus by the three kings (cf. Mt 2:11) and more radically from the gift made to mankind by God in the birth of Emmanuel amongst us (cf. Is 7: 14; 9:16; Mt 1:23). It is important, however, to ensure that the exchange of gifts on the solemnity of the Epiphany retain a Christian character, indicating that its meaning is evangelical: hence the gifts offered should be a genuine expression of popular piety and free from extravagance, luxury, and waste, all of which are extraneous to the Christian origins of this practice;

· the blessing of homes, on whose lintels are inscribed the Cross of salvation, together with the indication of the year and the initials of the three wise men (C+M+B), which can also be interpreted to mean Christus mansionem benedicat [Christ bless this house] written in blessed chalk; this custom, often accompanied by processions of children accompanied by their parents, expresses the blessing of Christ through the intercession of the three wise men and is an occasion for gathering offerings for charitable and missionary purposes;

· initiatives in solidarity with those who come from afar; whether Christian or not, popular piety has encouraged a sense of solidarity and openness;

· assistance to the work of evangelization; the strong missionary character of the Epiphany has been well understood by popular piety and many initiatives in support of the missions flourish on January 6, especially the "Missionary work of the Holy Child", promoted by the Apostolic See;

· the assignation of Patrons; in many religious communities and confraternities, patron saints are assigned to the members for the coming year.

(The Directory is accessible on the Vatican web site: www.vatican.va. For an interactive Calendar of the Church year, visit www.wf-f.org.)

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