Friday, January 03, 2020

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Epiphany Chalking


In case you miss the opportunity for another great Christmas custom you have a couple of days to go out and buy the chalk you left off your Christmas shopping list.


One of the lost customs of the season is the "Chalking of the Door" at Epiphany. The ever reliable Wikipedia tells us:
Either on Twelfth Night (January 5), the twelfth day of Christmastide and eve of the feast of the Epiphany, or on Epiphany Day (January 6) itself, many Christians (including AnglicansLutheransMethodistsPresbyterians and Roman Catholics, among others) chalk their doors with a pattern such as this, "20 † C † M † B † 19", with the numbers referring "to the calendar year (20 and 20, for instance, for this year, 2020); the crosses stand for Christ; and the letters have a two-fold significance: C, M and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (CasparMelchior and Balthasar), but they are also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, May Christ bless this house."[1] In some localities, but not in all, the chalk used to write the Epiphanytide pattern is blessed by a Christian priest or minister on Epiphany Day; Christians then take the chalk home and use it to write the pattern.[2] This Christian custom of chalking the door has a biblical precedent as the Israelites in the Old Testament marked their doors in order to be saved from death; likewise, the Epiphanytide practice serves to protect Christian homes from evil spirits until the next Epiphany Day, at which time the custom is repeated.[3] Families also perform this act because it represents the hospitality of the Holy Family to the Magi (and all Gentiles); it thus serves as a house blessing to invite the presence of God in one's home.[4]


Blessing the Chalk
V. Our help is the name of the Lord:
R. The maker of heaven and earth.
V. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
R. From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray.Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Instructions for Blessing the Home
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 20 while saying:
The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and seventeen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen


“Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and home. With time the chalk will fade. As it does we let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our heart and be manifest in our words and actions the Latin words, Christus mansionem benedictat, “May Christ bless the house.” (Source)
One of my favourite Liturgy sites  from Aotearoa-New Zealand includes more prayer choices for this ritual. And for the more visual there is even a youtube tutorial:


Of course for the more adventurous there is the Greek custom of the dive for the Cross which is much more challenging in the Northern Hemisphere while our locals get to take advantage of a decent summer dive.

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