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A Christmas Pilgrimage (maintaining Christmas until Epiphany)
Inside Catholic ^ | Mary Jo Anderson

Posted on 01/02/2009 8:22:31 AM PST by NYer

Our Christmas tree still blinks in the window, though most of our neighbors have taken down all signs of Christmas. Our nativity remains on the front lawn, too, and will until after the Feast of the Epiphany.
Each year it seems we struggle harder to "keep Christmas" amid the marketeering that now characterizes what most Americans experience simply as "the holidays." Is it any wonder that this blessed season, overshadowed by commercial preparations, leaves some of us harried and spiritually vacant?
We are invited by the liturgical rhythm to make an interior Christmas pilgrimage, beginning with Advent and following the Holy Family all the way to the Adoration of the Magi. That first Christmas was not simply a Roman command to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for Caesar's census; for the Holy Family, it was an interior journey of faith in God, in His promises and His providence.
We have listened to the story yearly; we know by heart each verse of the Gospel. And yet, do we identify with Mary and Joseph's struggle to trust in the cosmic promise that the Divine Word, the Son of God, would enter history to be born of a humble maid? And if it were truly God's will, why was there no room at the inn? Why was there no advance party to prepare a grand way for the Holy Child?
The human couple discovered God's plan in the doing of His of will. It is part of their journey of faith that -- somehow, despite appearances -- they learned that God was going before them. It is this interior journey of trust that one makes when going on pilgrimage.
Pilgrimages are an ancient form of devotion to some manifestation of God's providence. Among the more famous pilgrimage sites for Catholics are Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, Fatima. Each represents a unique place and moment in history when God revealed His work to those with the faith to "see." This seeing with the eyes of faith is part of the pilgrimage experience -- that is, one makes a physical journey in hopes of touching and experiencing the temporal place where heaven entered our world. But it is never the physical contact alone that true pilgrims seek. Rather, that physical reality reflects what the heart already knows: Only those who believe will see heaven at work.
In 1873, the Sisters of Loretto used their personal inheritances to build a chapel to complement their school for girls in Santa Fe ("Holy Faith"), New Mexico. Their new gothic chapel was patterned on Sainte Chapelle in Paris, but the architect for their project was shot to death before the chapel was completed. It's unclear whether the architect simply omitted a staircase to the choir loft or the builders made an error. Either way, the sisters labored over their problem: How can a staircase be built that will fit into the chapel where apparently no space was designed for it?
Over the years, legends grew as to how the lovely stairs were built, and who the mysterious builder might have been. The story has the familiar elements of a fairy tale. The most famous version of the legend is that the good sisters called in builders from near and far who hung their heads in despair: "No, Mother Superior, a stairwell such as the one you require cannot be built without injury to the chapel itself." Desperate to complete the chapel, the sisters resolved to make a novena to St. Joseph, the Master Carpenter.
On the ninth day, a poor man and his burro arrived in Santa Fe. The man offered to build the stairs to the choir. In the still of the night, the mysterious carpenter finished what one popular history describes as a stairway that
confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20 feet tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails.
Alternate versions of the legend recount how the sisters tried to pay the man who would not accept payment, or that one morning the stairs were completed, but the carpenter has disappeared. Pious believers are content to accept that the carpenter was St. Joseph himself, and that the stairs follow a heavenly design.
Since the CBS television movie The Staircase aired in 1998, there have been numerous attempts to discredit the "miraculous" staircase. It is made without nails, but this was not uncommon, say the skeptics. And while the wood used for its steps is not native to the area, the species is not extinct; meanwhile, the staircase itself was so unsafe that rails were added years later . . . And so it goes, until many of the legend's claims are skewered.
Yet in the debunking fervor, the real providence of God is missed by those who have no faith to see what is clearly in front of them. How can one gaze on the astonishing stairwell and not know that it is a superabundant provision in response to fervent prayer? There was an actual, logistical problem; the problem was not simply solved, but solved with the incredible work of a carpenter's art. That art is the message.
For pilgrims willing to look for God, His providence is clearly seen in this chapel, and at other revered sites. One might as well say that Joseph and Mary experienced nothing unusual when the Magi arrived in Bethlehem with coffers of valuables that provided the means for the Holy Family to escape to Egypt in advance of Herod's murderous rage.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; History; Religion & Culture

1 posted on 01/02/2009 8:22:31 AM PST by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

My tree is still up ping!

2 posted on 01/02/2009 8:23:25 AM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: NYer

Wow! The staircase is beautiful!

3 posted on 01/02/2009 8:25:57 AM PST by getmeouttaPalmBeachCounty_FL (****************************Stop Continental Drift**)
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To: NYer

Me too!

We also organized for the pastor to go from house to house in our neighborhood with “three kings” to do the traditional blessing and chalk inscription (20+C+M+B+09) on Epiphany.

4 posted on 01/02/2009 8:28:07 AM PST by Notwithstanding
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To: NYer

5 posted on 01/02/2009 8:32:02 AM PST by Notwithstanding
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To: NYer
6 posted on 01/02/2009 8:32:35 AM PST by Notwithstanding
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To: NYer—house-blessing/

7 posted on 01/02/2009 8:32:47 AM PST by Notwithstanding
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To: NYer
My Christmas tree is still up as well. The Santas are put away leaving the angels and the nativities I have center Rejoice! Our Savior reigns.
8 posted on 01/02/2009 8:32:49 AM PST by tioga (Rejoice, our Savior is born.)
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To: NYer

Ours is still up too!

9 posted on 01/02/2009 8:32:51 AM PST by Hoodlum91 (There's a strange odor coming from the White House. Smells like BO.)
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To: getmeouttaPalmBeachCounty_FL

The Miraculous Staircase, which legend says was constructed or inspired by St. Joseph the Carpenter, was built sometime between 1877 and 1881. It took at least six months to build, and has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support.

Loretto Chapel is now a private museum operated and maintained, in part, for the preservation of the Miraculous Staircase and the Chapel itself. Is is often used for weddings.

Loretto Chapel

10 posted on 01/02/2009 8:34:35 AM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: NYer

The readings at Daily Mass are still from Christmas. The priest’s vestments are still the glorious silver or gold, or possibly white.

11 posted on 01/02/2009 8:36:37 AM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Notwithstanding

Thank you for posting that information. This Sunday, our pastor will bless new crosses + fresh bottles of holy water and distribute these to the registered parishioners. The new cross will be hung by the front door. I will use your blessing ceremony with the fresh holy water to bless our house. Hopefully the temperature outside will rise above single digits :-0

12 posted on 01/02/2009 8:40:55 AM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: Notwithstanding
We did a big Epiphany Celebration several years ago and this was one of the handouts.

The Blessing of Chalk and the Blessing of a Home

There is a difference between blessings given by a priest and the same blessings read by the father or some older member of the family when it is not possible to have the priest present. But it is a mistake to consider them without efficacy when the layman reads them. By our Baptism we have a share in Christ's Priesthood. If we are part of Christ in His Mystical Body, and He is High Priest, we share this with Him. Ours is not the same as the power of the consecrated priest, but it is our right and privilege to ask God's blessing on the things we use in daily life, and we should exercise this privilege often.

The Blessing of Chalk is usually given by a priest at church. The chalk is then distributed to the people, who take it home to use after the Blessing of the Home.

Blessing of Chalk

Verse (leader). Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Response (all). Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk to render it helpful to men. Grant that they who use it in faith and with it inscribe upon the entrance of their homes the names of thy saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Sprinkle chalk with holy water.)

If this blessing is not ordinarily given at church, perhaps it could be if enough parishioners requested it; at any rate, it may be read by the father or one of the grownups at home.

In some parishes it is a custom for the pastor to bless the homes of the parish from the church doorway, the people reading the words of the blessing at the same hour in their homes, and going in procession from room to room sprinkling the house with holy water. At the end of this procession, the father or other grownup writes over the front door with the blessed chalk:

20 + C + B + M + 09

Blessing of Homes on Epiphany

V. Peace be to this house.
R. And to all that dwell herein.
Antiphon: From the east the Magi came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures, they offered costly gifts: gold to the great King, incense to the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia

Now follows the reading of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). The home is sprinkled with holy water, and following the Magnificat the antiphon is repeated: From the east. . . . Then the Our Father, silently.

V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. Many shall come from Saba
R. Bearing gold and incense.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray. O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal thy Sole-Begotten Son to the Gentiles, grant that we who now know thee by faith may be brought to the contemplation of thy heavenly majesty. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.

Responsory: Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and upon thee is risen the glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.
V. Nations shall walk in thy light, and kings in the splendor of thy birth.
R. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
Let us pray. Bless, O Lord, almighty God, this home that it be the shelter of health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to the commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May blessing remain for all time upon this dwelling and them that live herein. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


13 posted on 01/02/2009 8:41:03 AM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Notwithstanding
What the initials "CMB" mean

Epiphany Chalk

It is customary, especially in Central Europe, for the faithful to bless their houses at the Epiphany with blessed chalk. They write over their front door: 20 + C + M + B + 07. Obviously, the digits, which appear at the beginning and end of the line, designate the new year. ‘CMB’ stands for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) and also signifies the Latin prayer Christus Mansionem Benedicat or ‘May Christ bless this dwelling!’

The inscription is made above the front door or porch, so that all who enter and depart the home may enjoy God’s blessing. It also provides a very public witness to the Faith.

In my previous parish, the priests blessed broken bits of chalk (easily purchased from a stationary shop) at the end of each Epiphany Mass, using the traditional formula from the Rituale:

O Lord God, bless this chalk that it may be used for the salvation of the human race. Through the invocation of Thy most Holy Name grant that whoever shall take of this chalk and write with it upon the doors of his house the names of Thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession receive health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

After sprinkling the chalk with Holy Water, it was then distributed to the faithful, together with information sheets explaining the custom. The use of Epiphany Chalk is increasing slowly in this countruy - I keep noticing houses (and particularly presbyteries) with the 'CMB' inscription - and it is encouraged by the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (#118).

14 posted on 01/02/2009 8:46:24 AM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer

my tree and Nativity still bright!

15 posted on 01/02/2009 8:47:13 AM PST by Bitsy
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To: NYer

Ours is still up too!

16 posted on 01/02/2009 8:48:08 AM PST by dixiebelle
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To: NYer


You can also find a small box of “Prang” brand white chalk for 99 cents at Office Depot. If you break the pieces in half, you would have 20 pieces. The priest can also bless the chalk and you can include that in what is handed out to families.


17 posted on 01/02/2009 9:39:26 AM PST by Notwithstanding
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To: NYer

It’s a beautiful thing.

18 posted on 01/02/2009 10:04:50 AM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: NYer

Our decorations stay up and lit until the 6th...they get pretty lonely after Jan. 1!

19 posted on 01/02/2009 10:58:51 AM PST by aberaussie
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To: NYer
I was certainly relieved years ago when I learned that the 12 days of Christmas are from Christmas to Epiphany (since I'm always late getting out gifts ;). As a child, my mother always left the tree and decorations up until the weekend nearest Epiphany. My kids get annoyed when they see people taking their decorations down early.

Thanks for the Epiphany House Blessing. I almost forgot about it. (I did last year, unfortunately).

20 posted on 01/02/2009 11:26:27 PM PST by GOP_Thug_Mom (libera nos a malo)
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