Pastor's Letters

A VENERABLE EPIPHANY TRADITION: CHALKING THE DOORS

There is a long tradition in the Church, going back to the middle ages, of blessing houses at the

beginning of the year, on or near the celebration of Epiphany. Over time this developed into a

particular ritual, in which blessed chalk was used to mark the lintel above the front door (and, in

some cases, above every door in the house).


So once again this year, we will have baskets of blessed chalk at the entrances to the churches

during this weekend’s Masses. We invite every household to take one piece of blessed chalk

home with them to bless their house. There are a number of variations on the formula that a family can use for the occasion; the one below is short and simple, suitable even for families with small children (and thus small attention spans!) Longer, more elaborate forms of the blessing (based on the pre Vatican II Roman Ritual) can be easily found online.

The blessing can begin with all present making the sign of the Cross. The one leading the prayers

then says:


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling place among us. It is Christ who enlightens

our hearts and homes with his love. May all who enter this home find Christ’s light and

love.


The leader then says:

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who

became man two thousand and twenty one years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.


The lintel of the front door (either outside or inside) is then marked with:

20 + C + M + B + 21


The blessing concludes with everyone present praying the following prayer together:


Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the

guidance of a star. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love. May we be

blessed with health, gentleness, and kindness of heart. Fill us with the light of Christ, that

we may grow in grace and in the love and knowledge of you. We ask this through Christ

our Lord. Amen.


Side note: There are two meanings to the three letters used in the inscription. They refer first to

the names of the three wise men (whom we celebrate visiting the Christ child on the feast of the

Epiphany): Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also are an abbreviation for the Latin phrase

Christus mansionem benedicat  “May Christ bless [this] home,” interspersed between the numerals of the calendar year we have just begun.





A blessed Epiphany and new year to everyone,

Fr. John Paul Walker

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St. Mary Parish  | 5 Hillhouse Ave New Haven, CT 06511 | (203) 562-6193 | church@stmarysnewhaven.org

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