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 church 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; below I will provide one such example of how it may be done.
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 nineteen 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 + 19
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.
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 calendar year we are now beginning.
A blessed Epiphany and new year to everyone,
Fr. John Paul