“Chalk the Door” – 6 January – The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Each year around the feast of the Epiphany many parishes throughout the world participate in an annual blessing of chalk. It is an ancient tradition that not only places God at the entrance of your home, it places your entire family under his protection.
The Epiphany blessing of chalk and homes is a centuries old tradition where priests would visit each home in their parish after the Feast of the Epiphany. Over time it became more difficult to accomplish such a feat, as parishes became larger and larger and priests were stretched thin. For this reason it became an accepted tradition that a member of the household is able to lead this blessing in place of the priest.
The blessing has biblical roots, deeply tied to the Passover in the book of Exodus.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt … “take some of the blood [of the lamb], and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it … The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (cf. Exodus 12:1-13)
It is no coincidence that the Epiphany blessing is traditionally written on the lintel of the main doorway and even some of the prayers echo God’s words of protection that He gave to Moses. While the Epiphany blessing was not given in the same manner as it was to Moses, the Church provides it for our own spiritual benefit. The Church desires our salvation and so gives us beautiful sacramentals to assist us along the path to Eternal Life.
Traditionally a priest blesses chalk on the Feast of the Epiphany by saying the following prayer (from the Roman Ritual):
Bless, + O Lord God, this creature, chalk and let it be a help to mankind. Grant that those who will use it with faith in your most holy name and with it inscribe on the doors of their homes the names of your saints, Casper, Melchior, and Baltassar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health in body and protection of soul, through Christ our Lord.
The chalk is then distributed after Mass. If your local parish does not administer such a blessing, inquire around and see if any neighbouring parishes do. Parishioners then take the chalk home and use it while invoking God’s blessing upon their home.
It is a beautiful blessing, one that brings many graces upon those who practice it in faith and is an added protection against any spiritual enemies that may be lurking around.
Once you acquire the blessed chalk, either a priest or another member of the household can bless the home in the following manner (adapted from the Roman Ritual):
Upon entering the house [or at the front door]:
Priest/Head of Household: Peace be to this house.
All: And to all who dwell herein.
Priest: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord and opening their treasures, they offered precious gifts – gold for the great King, incense for the true God and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed.
The Canticle of Mary
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour
He looks on His servant in her lowliness
Henceforth all ages will call me blessed:
The Almighty works marvels for me,
holy is his Name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear Him.
He puts forth His arm in strength
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, His servant,
remembering His mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons forever.
After this is completed: All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord and opening their treasures, they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
Priest: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead and lead us not into temptation,
All: But deliver us from evil.
Priest: All they from Saba shall come
All: Bringing gold and frankincense.
Priest: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.
Priest: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee– Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.
All: And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendour of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.
Priest: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfilment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, walk through the house and bless each room by sprinkling with Epiphany/holy water and incensing it.
Take the blessed chalk and first write the initials of the three Wise Men, connected with Crosses, over the inside of your front door (on the lintel, if possible). Then write the year, breaking up the numbers and the year so that they fall on both sides of the initials. It should look like this, for example
20 C+M+B 19
The equation is written to be the first two digits of the year, followed by the initials C, M, and B, followed by the last two digits of the year. Each portion is split by plus signs. For this year, the equation would be written as “20 + C + M + B + 19.”
The chalking holds two meanings. The C, M and B, refer to the traditional names of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The letters also stand for the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat” which means “May Christ bless the house.” The plus signs represent the cross and the 20 and 19 simply refer to the year.