Epiphany Water Blessing!
From the Pastor: Epiphany Water Blessing!
The secular calendar has turned from 2021 to 2022. We have an Epiphany Parish calendar coming out soon (I blame both the backlog of ships off the California coast and the new covid strain for the delay in getting them to you, even though neither is accurate). You should be able to pick one up on the day we celebrate the External Solemnity of Epiphany, January 9. We only had 800 printed up but, with the uptick in numbers the last few weeks, that now looks like a low number of copies! If you were at the 10:30 Mass last Sunday, you saw the reality of that statement. I already had the sacristan put in 50 more hosts than normal, as our numbers have been remaining about 800 in attendance (total for all Sunday Masses) for the month rather than our previous normal of around 750. But even that wasn’t enough. As I saw the people at the halfway point of the church line up, I realized that I was already more than halfway through the number of Hosts in the ciborium and I started breaking them in two. But as the line seemed to extend longer and longer, I asked Fr. Manfiafico to start doing so as well. By the time we were finished, we were quartering them. Even so, we only had a few pieces of Host left when the last person received! It turns out that we set a record last week, with over 900 people at the Masses and 654 at the 10:30 alone. And, since the church only holds 500 people, that means that the rest were relegated to watching on tv in the social hall. Not a good situation but a great problem to have!
Although I just mentioned that we will celebrate our parish feast day as an external solemnity on January 9 (which the rubrics allow, in case you were wondering), we still have to follow the proper liturgical calendar for Epiphany, which falls yearly on January 6. We will have the regular 6:30 am and 8:00 am daily Masses on Epiphany itself. But there is also a special blessing of water that occurs the evening before Epiphany. Each year the crowd grows larger as more people participate in it. On Wednesday, January 5, at 6:30 pm we will once again have this solemn exorcism and blessing of salt and water. Last year so many people brought water to be blessed that we filled tables all the way across the front of the church, then filled the space under the tables, and finally filled the floor down the sides of the sanctuary as well. Each water bottle had to have the lid removed, then, when the exorcism and blessing of the salt was complete and the exorcism and first blessing of the water was finished, I added salt to each of the water bottles before giving them all a final blessing. Although I had servers to assist, my fingers had blisters from opening and screwing shut water bottles and there was water and salt all over the floor of the church! Needless to say, it also took quite a bit of time. This year we are doing something a bit different. You may still bring in your own salt to be exorcized and blessed. But, unless you are bringing in 5-gallon or larger bottles of water, bring them in empty. Yes, empty! This year we have a beautiful, cedar-covered 125-gallon water vessel which I will exorcize and bless in the usual way, and then you can fill up your empty water bottles from the large container. We made sure that standard 1-gallon milk jugs fit under the spout, so don’t think that you can only get 2 or 3 ounces. If you will use the water, bring a container. In years past, we blessed many extra bottles of water so that people could pick some up on Epiphany or the following Sunday if they missed the actual blessing ceremony. This year, the large container will be available until it is completely emptied.
On the day of Epiphany itself, January 6, we have the blessing of chalk (to be used to give your homes the special Epiphany blessing), gold, incense, and myrrh (recalling the gifts of the Three Kings) and, of course, houses. I will put out sheets for you to use for the annual house blessing so that you know what to do with the chalk and water. Also, although it is still a month away, while you are thinking about special blessings (each of which you will find on the parish calendar) February brings us the extra special blessing of candles on Candlemas Day (February 2) so get your candles ready to bring in. The blessing and candle procession will be at 8:00 am, followed by the Mass for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following day, St. Blase (or Blaise) brings not only the well-known and beloved blessing of throats but also a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments (to take to those who cannot make it to Mass—the wine and water can be used, obviously, even later in the year when someone gets a sore throat or other ailment) plus another blessing of candles! This candle blessing the day after Candlemas has long been helpful for all of those who forgot about the first blessing until it was too late yet didn’t want their candles to “go to waste” by being unblessed, so they could take them to church the very next day while it was fresh on their minds!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
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