Tuesday, January 5, 2016
The Vigil of Epiphany & The Solemn Blessing of Epiphany Water

Semidouble (1954 Calendar): January 5

Today, January 5th is the Vigil of the Epiphany and it is common in the traditional Roman Rite - in addition to the Byzantine Rite - to bless Epiphany water at this time. Sadly, even the 1962 Missal does not preserve this ancient vigil which was kept up until the changes in 1955 under Pope Pius XII. Those who keep the 1954 Calendar, retain this venerable vigil - one of the four principal vigils of the entire liturgical year.

Restore the 54 states, "The Vigil of Epiphany is one of the four major vigils of the year. This is the only vigil which is completely festal in nature, and as such, it is the only vigil without the use of violet, and it has a full Office, in semidouble rite, beginning with (First) Vespers. All other vigils, even the other major ones, don't begin until Matins, but all vigils without exception and by definition end with None."

The Vigil of the Epiphany

"The Epiphany of Our Lord is the central feast of the Incarnation cycle, which runs from the First Sunday of Advent to Candlemas. Epiphany is not the end, but the apex of this cycle; it brings to full fruition the expectation of Advent’s “Veni, Domine.” Epiphany fulfills Christmas; Our Lord was born in the stillness of the night and manifested His birth only to a few; the Epiphany recounts Our Lord manifesting Himself, human and divine, to the whole world, from which point, His salvific mission begins. 

"As such, Epiphany is one of the four principle feasts of the year, along with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, traditionally preceded by a privileged and special vigil. (By vigil, we refer to an entire day of preparation before a major feast, not a Mass of the feast itself anticipated the evening before.) Considering the importance of the feast, it is a very strange and unfortunate phenomenon that its ancient vigil, along with its highly privileged octave, was suppressed in 1955, along with many other things. Hence, in the 1962 Roman Calendar, there is no longer a “Vigil of Epiphany,” and January 5 was recast as a generic Christmas feria."

"The Feast of Christmas is over; the four Octaves are closed; and we are on the Eve of the Solemnity of our Lord's Epiphany. We must spend this January 5 in preparing ourselves for the Manifestation which Jesus, the Angel of Great Counsel, is about to make to us of his glory. A few more hours, and the Star will stand still in the heavens, and the Magi will be seeking for admission into the stable of Bethlehem.

"This Vigil is not like that of Christmas, a day of penance. The Child whose coming we were then awaiting, in the fervour of our humble desires, is now among us, preparing to bestow fresh favours upon us. This eve of to-morrow’s Solemnity is a day of joy, like those that have preceded it; and therefore we do not fast, nor does the Church put on the vestments of mourning. If the Office of the Vigil be the one of to-day, the colour used is White. This is the Twelfth day since the Birth of our Emmanuel.

"If the Vigil of the Epiphany fall on a Sunday, it shares with Christmas Eve the privilege of not being anticipated, as all other Vigils are, on the Saturday: it is kept on the Sunday, has all the privileges of a Sunday, and the Mass is that of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas Day. Let us, therefore, celebrate this Vigil in great joy of heart, and prepare our souls for to-morrow’s graces.

"The Greek Church keeps this a fasting-day, in memory of the preparation for Baptism, which used formerly to be administered, especially in the East, on the night preceding the feast of the Epiphany. She still solemnly blesses the Water on this Feast. We will in our next volume speak of this ceremony, of which some vestiges still remain in the Western Church."

The traditional Gospel reading for the Vigil of the Epiphany, in place up until 1955. Sadly, with the change in 1955, it is not read anytime in the 1962 Missal:

"AT THAT TIME, when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child. Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:19-23).

The Blessing of Epiphany Water - Background

By way of background, this is taken from Rorate Caeli:

This rite was inserted into the Roman Ritual in 1890, arguably making it the most recent example of the influence of Greek ceremonial on the Roman Rite prior to the liturgical reforms of the 20th century.

There was apparently a botched attempt to abolish this ritual in the early 20th century, as the following passage from a well-known rubrical guide shows: “(t)he solemn Blessing of Water which had been introduced in some places, and which owes its origin to the Greek Church, as is shown in the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, 3730 … is to be struck out as abrogated, according to the Decree of the same Congregation, 3792, ad XV, and therefore it is not permitted to use it in the future. It is, nevertheless, retained in the revised edition of the Rituale Romanum (Vatican, typical, 1925), p. 705 ” (No. 547 of Matters Liturgical, 1938 edition, by Joseph Wuest C.SS.R and Thomas Mullaney C.SS.R.). At any rate, the blessing has continued to be used in some communities down to our own day, and is being rediscovered by others. 

It should be noted that prior to 1890, the solemn Blessing of Water was already to be found in some diocesan rituals (especially in Germany). There was also a particularly elaborate form of this blessing that was used at least until 1890 in Sant' Andrea della Valle and some other churches in Rome. It's text -- which is far longer than the 1890 text, with a Lesson and a Gospel reading, responsories and antiphons, a Preface, a Sanctus, and very long blessings.

The Blessing of Epiphany Water - Liturgical Rite Translated into English

The celebrant, vested in white cope, comes before the altar, preceded by acolytes bearing the processional cross and lighted candles. A vessel of water and a container of salt are prepared.

The Litany of the Saints is sung, during which time all kneel. After the invocation "That Thou wouldst grant eternal rest, etc.," the celebrant rises and sings the following two invocations:

℣. That Thou wouldst bless + this water.
℟. We beseech Thee hear us.
℣. That Thou wouldst bless + and sanctify + this water.
℟. We beseech Thee hear us.

The cantors continue the litany. The celebrant then says the Pater Noster silently until:

℣. And lead us not into temptation.
℟. But deliver us from evil.

Psalm 28

Sacrifice to the Lord, ye sons of God; * bring to the Lord the offspring of rams.

Offer to the Lord praise and honor, offer glory to His name; * worship the Lord in His holy court.

The voice of the Lord booms over the waters, the God of majesty hath thundered, * the Lord rules over tempestuous waters.

The voice of the Lord hath power, * the voice of the Lord hath splendor.

The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars, * the Lord doth shatter the cedars of Lebanon.

And scattereth them to skip like a calf, * while His beloved gambol like the young of bison.

The voice of the Lord spreadeth flame into lightning; the voice of the Lord maketh the desert to tremble; * and the Lord shall shake the wilderness of Cades.

The voice of the Lord frighteneth deer to calve untimely, and strippeth bare the forests, * and in His heavens all sing: “Glory!”

The Lord is enthroned upon the flood, * the Lord shall reign as King forever.

The Lord will give strength to His people, * the Lord will bless His people with peace.

Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Psalm 45

Our God is refuge and strength, * a Helper in sorrows which often beset us.

Hence we fear not, though the earth be shaken * and the mountains sink in the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof should roar and foam, * and the mountains quake from its breakers.

Gay billows of the river gladden the city of God; * the Most High hath sanctified His dwelling.

God is in the midst of the city, it shall not be disturbed; * God will help it at earliest dawn.

The heathen were afflicted, and kingdoms brought low; * God spoke, and their land was dissolved.

The Lord of hosts is with us, * the God of Jacob is our protector.

Come ye and behold the works of the Lord, what desolation He hath wrought on their land! * He endeth wars through the boundaries of the earth.

He breaketh the bow and destroyeth weapons, * and shields He burneth in fire.

And He spoke: “Be still, and see that I am God! * I will be exalted by the heathen, I will be exalted by my own.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; * the God of Jacob is our protector.

Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Psalm 146

Praise ye the Lord, for it is good to laud Him; * joyful and worthy praise becometh our God.

The Lord rebuildeth Jerusalem, * and will gather the exiles of Israel.

He healeth the heart-broken, * and bindeth up their wounds.

He knoweth the number of stars, * and calleth all by name.

Great is our Lord and great His power, * His wisdom infinite.

The Lord raiseth up the meek, but the wicked He humbleth to the dust.

Sing ye to the Lord in thanksgiving; * praise our God on the harp;

Who covereth the heavens with clouds, * and prepareth rain for the earth.

Who maketh grass to grow on the hills * and herbs for lower creatures.

Who giveth to beasts their food, * and to little ravens that cry unto Him.

He placeth no trust in the strength of a steed, * nor doth man’s fleetness please Him.

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him * and in them that trust in His mercy.

Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.

Exorcism Against Satan and the Apostate Angels
We cast thee out, every unclean spirit, every devilish power, every assault of the infernal adversary, every legion, every diabolical group and sect, by the Name and power of our Lord Jesus + Christ, and command thee to fly far from the Church of God and from all who are made to the image of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Lamb +. Presume never again, thou cunning serpent, to deceive the human race, to persecute the Church of God, nor to strike the chosen of God and sift them as wheat +. For the Most High commands thee, + He to Whom thou didst hitherto in thy great pride presume thyself equal; He Who desireth that all men might be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth. God the Father + commandeth thee! God the Son + commandeth thee! God the Holy + Spirit commandeth thee! The majesty of Christ commands thee, the Eternal Word of God made flesh, + Who for the salvation of our race, lost through thy envy, humbled Himself and was made obedient even unto death; Who built His Church upon a solid rock, and proclaimed that the gates of hell should never prevail against her, and that He would remain with her all days, even to the end of the world! The Sacred Mystery of the Cross + commands thee, as well as the power of all Mysteries of Christian faith! + The most excellent Virgin Mary, Mother of God + commands thee, who in her lowliness crushed thy proud head from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception! The faith of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul and the other apostles + commands thee! The blood of the martyrs commands thee, as well as the pious intercession + of holy men and women!

Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure thee by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by the God Who so loved the world that He gave His Sole-Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but shall have life everlasting – cease thy deception of men and thy giving them to drink of the poison of eternal damnation; desist from harming the Church and fettering her freedom! Get thee gone, Satan, founder and master of all falsity, enemy of mankind! Give place to Christ in Whom thou didst find none of thy works; give place to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church which Christ Himself bought with His Blood! Be thou brought low under God’s mighty hand; tremble and flee as we call upon the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before Whom hell trembles, and to Whom the Virtues, Powers, and Dominations are subject; Whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unfailing voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of Hosts!
The cantors sing the following Antiphon and Canticle:
Today the Church is espoused to the heavenly Bridegroom, for in the Jordan Christ washes her sins: the Magi hasten with gifts to the regal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with water become wine, alleluia.

Canticle of Zachary Luke 1.68-79
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, * for He hath visited and redeemed His people,

And hath raised up the Abundance of salvation for us * in the lineage of David His servant.

Thus He foretold by the mouth of His holy prophets * who have been from times ancient;

That we might be saved from our enemies – * from the hand of all that hate us.

Now is granted the mercy promised to our fathers, * remembering His holy covenant;

And the oath which He swore to Abraham our father * that He would extend to us;

That we, delivered from the hand of our enemies, * might serve Him without fear,

Living in holiness and righteousness * before Him all our days.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, * for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways;

To give knowledge of salvation to His people – * the remission of their sins,

Through the bounteous mercy of our God * in which the Orient from on high hath visited us,

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, * to direct our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father. * As it was in the beginning.
Or instead of the above, the “Magníficat” (Luke 1. 46-55) may be chosen. At the end of either, the Antiphon given above is repeated. Then the celebrant sings:
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. 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, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, eternally.
℟. Amen.

The Blessing of the Water
℣. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
℟. Who made heaven and earth.
From here on the Exorcism of Salt and the prayer that follows it; the Exorcism of Water and the two prayers that follow it; the Mixing of the Salt and Water; and the Concluding Prayer are the same texts as the standard Blessing of Holy Water that was printed in the October 5, 2008 edition of this column.

The celebrant then sprinkles the people with the blessed water. Lastly, the “Te Deum” is sung.

The blessed water is then given to the faithful who will use it to bless the sick and their homes.

The Following Printable Blessing is formatted for printing and use: 

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