AN EPIPHANIC EPIPHANY
I well remember the first time (now many years ago) that I went to a 'traditional' celebration of the Epiphany, with all the customary ceremonies performed during the Mass.
I was obviously familiar with the 'liturgical' ceremonies of (eg) Candlemas and Palm Sunday; but I had never before encountered anything like this - the sudden appearance of the Deacon in the Pulpit to chant the Proclamation of Movable Feasts, and later on the Blessing of Chalk so that we could take it home and inscribe the names of the Magi on the doorposts of our homes, as a sign that we would welcome all who sincerely seek for Christ.
Well, those days are long past; so I was delighted to see that the New Liturgical Movement has an excellent posts today on Epiphany Customs, and more significantly, on the Proclamation of Movable Feasts . . . apparently this is coming back into vogue, and will, indeed, form part of the Papal liturgy in S. Peter's tomorrow.
Before you say it . . . I know that, in the grand scheme of things, these little oddities aren't important; but it does seem to me that they make people think - I know they made me think, all those years ago - and anything which gets people thinking about their religion can only be a good thing. For me, tomorrow, there will be my usual Epiphany heartsearching : do I truly welcome all who seek for Christ ? or am I intolerant of those who wish to seek Him in ways different to mine ? I wish it were the former : I fear it may be the latter. Perhaps this revelation of Jesus to the gentiles ought to remind us of the insularity of the Jews, and make us consider whether we, too, are somtimes insular in our attitudes to His message.
(I do realize that, in England at least, the Epiphany was kept on Sunday; but 6th January is the real date of the Epiphany, so a brief post on the subject seemed not inappropriate.)
On re-reading the above, I realize that I completely forgot to mention the Offertory on that day.
Instead of the usual Collection of money, the individual members of the congregation were encouraged to bring their own individual gifts - of Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh.
The Gold was any unwanted jewellery; and it was sold, and the proceeds used for the beautification of the liturgy : Frankincense was just that - boxes of Incense of the various kinds used in the Church at different seasons, to be used in the liturgy : and Myrrh was small pre-printed envelopes bearing that single word, into which one might put whatever cash donation one chose, which would be sent to the medical missions.
Thus, just on this one day of the year, the congregation became actively and visibly involved not only in the Offertory, but also - by its gifts - in the activities of the Church as a whole; not only liturgical, but also pastoral. It was a charming tradition, but also one with some teaching value as well; I think it could perhaps become more widespread.