EPIPHANY traditions: exorcisms, blessings, special chants, eggs, etc.

Let’s be clear about something.  Epiphany falls on 6 January.  Always has, always will.  This year, the year of grace 2018, 6 January is a Saturday.

Great feasts have vigils.  Vigils are moments of penance, preparation, recollection.  We fast before our feasts.

In the ancient Church, Epiphany was more important than the feast of the Nativity, celebration of which developed later.

In the Western, Latin Church, on Epiphany we traditionally mark manifestations or revelations of the Lord’s Divinity during His earthly life.  So, the Vespers antiphon for Epiphany sings of the acknowledgement of the Lord by the heathen Magi, the Baptism of the Lord by John when the Father’s voice was heard, and the first public miracle the Lord worked at the Wedding at Cana.  All three were manifestations, epiphanies, of the Lord’s Divine nature.

On the preparatory Vigil of Epiphany, today, there is a custom of blessing special “Epiphany Water”.     It was once reserved to bishops, but priests can do it.  The texts are wonderful and the accompanying rites are beautiful.  It is carried out in the context of a service like Lauds or Vespers.  There is a long exorcism against Satan and apostate angels, which includes:

Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by the God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have life everlasting; cease your deception of the human race and your giving them to drink of the poison of everlasting damnation; desist from harming the Church and fettering her freedom. Begone Satan, you father and teacher of lies and enemy of mankind. Give place to Christ in whom you found none of your works; give place to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, which Christ Himself purchased with His blood. May you be brought low under God’s mighty hand. May you tremble and flee as we call upon the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before whom hell quakes, and to whom the virtues, powers, and dominations are subject; whom the cherubim and seraphim praise with unwearied voices, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!

There are exorcisms of salt and water, of course, before their mixing, and the Te Deum is sung. It is seriously, in-your-face CATHOLIC, and therefore boldly to be done everywhere.

On Epiphany there are special blessings for chalk for marking the doors of homes to be blessed, along with a special home blessing.  We also bless gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Bring all your myrrh to church for a blessing.

Also, on Epiphany we sing what is known as the Noveritis.  This is the solemn announcement of the movable feasts –  from the Pontificale Romanum – for the year now underway. (Remember that Epiphany isn’t supposed to be a movable feast!)  The dates of Easter, etc., change every year, so you have to adapt the chant each year.  For this year’s chant, go HERE for a PDF with the proper dates in Latin, in Gregorian notation.  The chant is rather like the Exsultet.

In some countries, we bless salt, bread and eggs, which were then distributed to the poor.  It would be great to have these things blessed, and perhaps take them to a food shelf (along with other foods that can be blessed).


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Forgive me, Father, if this question dismays you, but:

    Is there a simpler version of the traditional blessing for Epiphany Water?

    I am encouraging folks to bring chalk and Epiphany water home from church this weekend; we have the chalk, we have a sheet with prayers for the head of the household, and we will have holy water, one way or the other. But when I looked at the old ritual for the blessing of Epiphany water, I blanched: “we cannot manage this!”

    Of course, I suppose I can use the regular blessing for water (I mean in the old ritual); but I thought I would ask. Thanks!

    [I suppose that you could, ahead of time, exorcise the salt. Also, you could just use the form for the blessing of water, with psalms, etc. However, that sort of trims out the whole “special” part.]

  2. Imrahil says:

    I haven’t been asked.

    But around here, the usual practice is to bless the water on the Vigil (as it is supposed to be), and still have the Font present on Epiphany proper so that people can take their water, trusting that the priest has done the blessing for them.

  3. L. says:

    Father, your declaration, “Let’s be clear about something. Epiphany falls on 6 January. Always has, always will” makes me think of Ascension Thursday Sunday.

  4. frjim4321 says:

    “I am encouraging folks to bring chalk and Epiphany water home from church this weekend; we have the chalk, we have a sheet with prayers for the head of the household, and we will have holy water, one way or the other.”

    Yes, the place 10 1/2 miles to the northwest of us is doing that this year also. I like the idea; it’s too late to put together for this year, but I think we’ll do it next year. I would like a couple weeks for catechesis in order to maximize mindful participation.

  5. We have done the chalk blessing for about five years now. I inscribe the home and the out buildings as well as our tornado shelter. A stranger knocked on my door once and while I was talking to him he looked up over the door and asked what those letters and numbers meant. I tried to explain and then just asked him if he was familiar with the bible and told him it was kind of like the blood on the doorposts in Exodus. He acted like he understood but also looked at me like I was crazy and left quickly, lol

    Philip Kosloski explains it like this:

    “It is no coincidence that the Epiphany blessing is traditionally written on the lintel of the main doorway and even some of the prayers echo God’s words of protection that He gave to Moses. While the Epiphany blessing was not given to us in the same manner as it was to Moses, the Church provides it for our own spiritual benefit. The Church desires our salvation and so gives us beautiful sacramentals to assist us along the path to Eternal Life.”

  6. Fr. Kelly says:

    I blessed 6 gallons of Epiphany Water this evening and will bless Frankincense, Myrrh and Chalk tomorrow for my people to take home.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

Comments are closed.