The sixth of January is the feast of Epiphany, the day we remember the Magi, or Wise Men, who interpreted the significance of a new star in the night sky as heralding the birth of a new king, and journeyed to find the infant-toddler Jesus. They brought with them treasure chests, containing gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.
You can read their story in Matthew 2:1-12. We don’t know how many Magi came, or where they came from, or who they were. Details of their journey are sparse – it involved a detour – as are details of the gifts they brought. Something about the account has captured people’s imagination; and its sparseness has left room for our imagination to flourish. Perhaps they came from the royal courts of the Empires into which the people of Israel had been carried off into Exile – those royal courts who had come across the hopes and dreams of Israel long ago, when men and women like Daniel and Esther were carried to them. Perhaps they came from further away: it is recorded that the most senior astronomer-astrologer of the Chinese court disappeared for several years at this time…
European tradition has assigned to the Magi the role of kings, and the names Caspar (who brings gold), Melchior (who brings incense) and Balthazar (who brings myrrh). And these names are represented in the Epiphany prayer, drawn in chalk above or beside the door of the house:
20 + C + M + B + 14
The numbers represent the year (so next year, the 14 will change to 15). The crosses represent Jesus. The letters represent Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar…and also the Latin phrase:
Christus Mansionem Benedicat
or, May Christ Bless this House [throughout 2014]
Epiphany is a Season, an invitation to seek Christ throughout the year ahead, starting with what we think we know and open to discovering something entirely unexpected. As we begin, you might like to write this symbol-prayer by your door, and make it your prayer that Christ may bless your house, and be found by all who enter…