By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Epiphany is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world and even around the Diocese of Jackson. From processions to door blessings, each tradition helps remind the community that the Christmas Season starts on Christmas and runs through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
In Carthage, the parish hosted a procession to celebrate the feast. In Corinth, parishioners dressed as the three wise men came to Mass to present gifts at the nativity set in the church and then to give candy and goodies to the children after Mass.
According to tradition, the three wise men represent the admiration of the world for the child that brought salvation. All three show the diversity of the world and the phases of the life of the human being that has to be saved by faith. Their gifts also have symbolic meaning. The Magi brought gold, incense and myrrh.
On January 6, in Rome, Pope Francis explained in his homily” “Gold, the most precious of metals, reminds us God has to be granted first place; he has to be worshiped,” he said. Frankincense is a symbol of the prayer that each person is called to offer God. And myrrh, the same ointment that would later be used to anoint Jesus’ dead body, is a sign of the gift of “care for bodies racked by suffering, the flesh of the vulnerable, of those left behind, of those who can only receive without being able to give anything material in return.”
Other cultures tell the story that Melchior, the gold-bearer, is an old man representing Europe. Gold represents the royalty of the Child King. Gaspar or Caspar is a young Asian who brought incense, for the divinity of the child. Balthazar is the mature man from Africa who offers myrrh, a product to embalm the dead and reflects the humanity of the Lord.
In Europe, Epiphany is a day to bless the house. At Jackson St. Richard School, Father Nick Adam blessed classrooms and “chalked” the doors. In this practice, a priest uses chalk to write the numbers of the year with crosses and the letters C + M + B in between each number. The letters represent the names of the magi as well as the Latin “Christus mansionem benedicat,” or “may Christ bless this house.”
In other cultures, Christmas presents are not exchanged until Epiphany. Often families eat their first “King cake” on this day. The sweet bread has a coin or small baby representing Christ hidden inside. The person who receives the baby is considered lucky for the year and sometimes has to make or buy the next king cake.
(Maureen Smith contributed to this article.)