Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Catholic Prayer: Summary of Epiphany Blessings from the Roman Ritual


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The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a "blessing," and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).

Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father "with every spiritual blessing." This is why the church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ [CCC 1669, 1671].

The following blessings were traditionally celebrated on Epiphany in different countries. The current Roman Ritual, or Book of Blessings has been revised, and the wording of blessings have changed slightly, but still are performed.


[Editor's Note: These blessings refer to the 1946 version of the Roman Ritual. See the Roman Ritual, English translation The Book of Blessings for the current blessings.]

Blessing of Chalk: Blessed chalk is distributed to the people in some churches, especially in Europe. The chalk is taken home and is used to mark the year and the initials of the three Magi over the door of the house (e.g.: 20 + C + M + B + 19) to remind all who enter and leave through the main door that they also must be ready to leave all, if necessary, and follow Christ. It might be added also that this is a beautiful act of faith.

Blessings of Bread, Salt and Eggs: In some places in Europe, bread, eggs and salt are taken to the church on this day to be blessed. In sections of Germany incense is taken also. These things are blessed after the morning service and may be taken home to be eaten with the holiday meals. In Germany, the bread and eggs are given to the poor, the salt is retained at home as a reminder that the people, as Christians, are to be "the salt of the earth," and the incense is burned at the family altar to remind the whole family that, just as the house is filled with the odor of the incense, so should charity bind together all of the members of the family with Christ.

Blessing of Gold, Frankincense (and Myrrh): In many churches there is a custom of blessing gold, frankincense and sometimes myrrh on the feast of the Epiphany. The gold is to be offered for sacred vessels in the parish, the incense is taken home to be used as noted above. The blessings of all these things, the chalk, bread, gold, etc., may be found in the Roman Ritual. If these customs are not in practice in your parish, you might ask the priests to introduce them.

Blessing of Water on the Vigil of Epiphany: In some places water is blessed on the Vigil of Epiphany and is then given to the faithful to use in their homes, and also for the sick. Unlike the above blessings, however, this blessing is reserved to the Bishop or to his delegate. It is a beautiful, but rather long ceremony which may be found in the Roman Ritual.

Blessing of the Home on the Feast of the Epiphany: The blessing of the home is often given by pastors, either individually or if the parish is so large that this is impossible, from the church steeple in the four directions. If there is no blessing of houses in your parish on Epiphany, the father may go through the various rooms of the home sprinkling the "water of the three kings," which was described immediately above, or with ordinary holy water if the other has not been blessed. As the various rooms are sprinkled, the father reads the prayer:

Bless, O Lord, almighty God, this home so that in it there may be health, chastity, victorious strength, humility, goodness and mildness, obedience to God's laws, and acts of thanks to God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and may this Blessing remain upon this house, and upon all who dwell in it. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
If the pastor is going to bless the homes from the church, the father of the family should perform the above ceremony for his home at the same time.

Prayer Source: How to Make Your House a Home by Rev. Bernard Stokes, O.F.M., Family Life Bureau, Washington D.C., 1955