Epiphany Prayer for Others: Wise Men, Fire & Water

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, behütet uns auch für dieses Jahr, vor Feuer und vor Wassergefahr.

“…protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.”

— prayer uttered during the traditional German feast of the Three Kings

Ched Myers blogs here about an old German practice of ritually purifying the household on the Twelfth Day, the “eve of Epiphany.”  Herbs were burned and  the symbol +C+B+M+ with two numbers before and two numbers after (for example, 20+C+B+M+10) were sometimes seen written in chalk above the doorway of Christian homes. The letters are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. These letters also abbreviate the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The beginning and ending numbers are the year, 2010 in the example above. The crosses represent Christ.

Marking the lintels of doorways is an old European practice that originally had overtones of magic (protection of the house). However, the symbols are now used throughout the world and usually represent a traditional Epiphany prayer and blessing.

I used the traditional prayer asking for protection in the coming year from the ravages of fire and water as the basis for my Prayer for Others at Footscray Baptist Church this morning:

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.”

We pray for those who know the ravages of fire…

For those whom the public announcement of the first Extreme Bushfire Rish day of our Victorian summer in this last week brings back traumatic memories the Black Saturday fires.

For families celebrating a second Christmas without precious family, remembering loved ones lost.

For our own preparations and awareness of bushfire during this holiday period.

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.

We pray for those who know the ravages of water…

For our brothers and sisters in Queensland who have lost everything and who still await the peak of flood waters this coming week.

For those of poor nations who have experienced natural disasters in the last year.  Places such as Haiti and Pakistan, long forgotten by our news cycle, who face the prospect of ongoing economic ruin and the threat of cholera and waterbourne diseases.

For our leaders struggling to come to terms with the impact of our lifestyles upon climate change and the ever increasingly extreme weather events and their impact upon the poorest of the poor in our world.

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.

We pray for those who know the ravages of fire…

Of the victims of violence cause by our seeming policy of ‘permanent war ‘.

For those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For those in places of previous conflict who face the fire of forgotten land mines, depleted uranium munitions and “smart-bombs.”

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.

We pray for those who know the ravages of water...

For those drowning in debt after another Christmas they could not afford.

For those saturated with the delusions and distractions of our culture of conspicuous consumption in the flood of post Christmas sales.

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.

We pray for those who know the ravages of fire…

For those of other faiths, cultures, places not of our own who experience the fire of racial prejudice and hatred.

For the ‘innocents’ of our day.  The children of asylum seekers whose mental wellbeing in ‘burned’ by our government policies of incarceration.

We pray for those who know the ravages of water...

For the families and friends of those who recently lost their lives in the tragic sinking of the refugee boat off Christmas Island.

For those who, like you, are compelled to undertake dangerous and risky journeys across social, cultural and political divides in the hope of a new kingdom and freedom.

Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.

Amen.

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