Sunday, January 3, 2016


"The Three Kings" a painting by Emvin Cremona, Malta
Today the three Kings or Magi arrive in Bethlehem and present Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. There are two traditions held on this day, both of which come to us from the Eastern tradition. The first is when families write the names of the Three Kings on doorways of their homes as the head of the house goes around the house saying prayers and chanting various hymns. Chalk blessed by the priest on Epiphany is given to the faithful to mark their entrance door with the current year and with the inscription C+M+B, the initials of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the traditional names of the Magi. The entire phrase would read 20 + C + M + B + 16. In addition to remembering the Magi, the inscription could also be translated for the Latin phrase Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this house.”
The second tradition is repeated in Greece and Greek communities around the world every January 6 or the feast of the Epiphany when dozens of teenage boys or young men jump into the murky, chilly and sometimes frozen water and dive for a wooden cross tossed in by a priest. The one lucky enough to surface with it earns instant celebrity status, a ride through the streets on the shoulders of his peers and – the Greek-American boys believe – the favor of God in the coming year.

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