Schools Epiphany service keeps Christmas alive

By Veronica Murphy

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King hosted the annual Three Kings Epiphany Service on 8 January when more than 800 primary schoolchildren keenly embraced the message that "Christmas is not over yet".

Canon Tony O'Brien, the Cathedral Dean, was joined by Canon Paul Rattigan from Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral and children representing 23 primary schools of both Christian traditions at the service, which celebrates the journey of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem.

With this year being our Cathedral's turn to host the now-customary event, Canon O'Brien welcomed the excited, and mostly brightly-clothed, Friday afternoon congregation with the words: "We know a secret – Christmas is not yet over!"

The Epiphany service began with the arrival of a so-called star carrier symbolising the Christmas star that directed the Magi on their journey. Canons O'Brien and Rattigan led prayers, and boys and girls from different schools read prayers of intercession, including one deserving of a particularly loud amen: "We pray that we may be children of light – that we may be bright shining stars, at home, at school, in our parishes and in our local communities, bringing happiness and peace to all we know."

The young attendees came clad in various hues, with numerous impersonations of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, a host of stars, quite a few Marys and Josephs, and the odd sheep or shepherd. The children had been asked in advance to think what new year promise they could make to the baby Jesus and so bring that gift – just as the Magi had offered theirs of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Liverpool Cathedrals’ service has strong links with a similar service held yearly on 6 January in different parts of Europe, especially in Germany. In fact, every few years representatives from Cologne Cathedral visit our schools service and bring the costumes used during their own celebrations.

Another Epiphany tradition sees homes being marked with the letters 'CMB' and the year in question. CMB denotes the Latin blessing 'Christus mansionem benedicat' (may Christ bless this house) as well as the initials of the Wise Men. This explained the little flourish whereby two Cathedral security staff were handed pieces of chalk and invited to write 'CMB 2016' on the walls close to the entrance.