Here’s a fun Epiphany tradition you could try this year with your family: chalking the door!
The chalking of the door is typically done on or around January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.
Epiphany (which means “revealing”) commemorates the Magi who came from the four corners of the world bearing gifts and following a star to meet the child who would become king. We celebrate Epiphany to remember that we too are invited to come and witness the life of Jesus and be blessed as we begin a new year.
“Chalking the door” is a centuries-old way to celebrate and to (literally) mark the occasion of the Epiphany with God’s blessing of our lives and homes with sacred signs and symbols to set our homes apart as places of Christian hospitality, as safe and peaceful outposts of the Kingdom of God in the world, as habitations of healing and rest. We again invite God’s presence into our homes and ask His blessing upon all those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year.
Each year, using blessed chalk, people mark the doorpost of their home with an inscription of the new year separated by C+M+B. For instance, in 2019, the inscription is 20+C+M+B+19.
Why C+M+B? It stands for the Latin words Christus Mansionem Benedictat, which means “May Christ bless this house.” The letters can also stand for the traditional names of the Magi who visited Christ: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
Chalk is used in this tradition because it is an ordinary substance of the earth, “dust” put to holy use. It reminds us that we are of the dust of the ground, the most ordinary of substances, and yet are fashioned as holy beings for holy purposes. Chalk will not permanently mark the dwelling. Weather will likely cause the marking to fade over time, but each time we view the inscription upon entering our homes we will remember the reason for it and rededicate ourselves to that purpose.
Here’s how to participate in this traditional house blessing:
1. Mark the Doorpost
Using blessed chalk, mark your doorpost (inside or out) with this inscription:
20 + C + M + B + 19
2. Then Pray
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.
Download the prayer liturgy below to chalk your home this Epiphany.