Today is January 6, the day that the church celebrates Epiphany. Epiphany is the day that we remember the arrival of the magi, who followed the star to the Jesus child. Over the next weeks during the season of Epiphany, the church will consider themes of light, revelation, and "appearing." But on the day of Epiphany itself, we celebrate the star that led the magi, the arrival of the magi, and the revelation of the Christ-child to them.
One Epiphany tradition is the blessing of the home. Matthew's account of the magi says that "on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother" (2:10-11). Because of this reference to meeting Christ in the home, Christian tradition uses Epiphany to consider the ways that Christ is met in our homes, in visitors, and in hospitality. So, following an eastern European tradition, you might think about blessing your home on this night or during this season, inscribing 20 + CMB + 11 over your front door in chalk. The numbers represent the new year (and change each year). The letters stand for the Latin blessing "Christe mansionem benedica," which means, "Christ, bless this house," but also refer to the legendary names of the magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.
Among the Russion Orthodox, today is also a feast of blessing and drinking water, a custom that goes back to a pre-Christian belief that on this day, the gods turned water into wine. You might consider using this day to reflect upon the wonder of water and stars, filling glasses with water and praying, "Dear God, we thank you that long ago you smiled and stars and comets dived into the oceans of this planet, fertilizing them with life. With gratitude for the beautiful stars in the night skies and for the water of life piped into our homes, we tast you and one another: To Life!" (The Old Hermit's Almanac, p. 19)
As you reflect today on themes of light, life, home, water, stars, and kings, I leave you with beautiful words penned by the poet T.S. Eliot. Blessings to you this day and always!
"Journey of the Magi," by T.S. Eliot
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.