THE CHALKING OF THE DOORS: AN EPIPHANY TRADITION EXPLAINED

TAKEN FROM A WRITING BY JAMIE SKOJEC

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Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night, Theophany, or Three Kings Day) marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of “chalking the doors.” The formula for the ritual — adapted for 2018 — is simple: take chalk of any color and write the following above the entrance of your home:                        20 + C+M + B + 18.

The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus in His first home. They also abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “18” at the end mark the year. Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request for Christ to bless those homes so marked and that He stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.

The chalking of the doors is a centuries-old practice throughout the world, though it appears to be someone less well-known in the United Sates. It is, however, an easy tradition to adopt, and a great practice whereby we dedicate our year to God from its very outset, asking His blessing on our homes and on all who live, work or visit them there.

Most often the chalking takes place after Epiphany Mass, and can be done at any church, home, or dwelling.  Traditionally the blessing is done by either a priest or the father of the family. This blessing can be performed simply by just writing the inscription and offering a short prayer, or more elaborately, including songs, prayers, processions, the burning of incense, and the sprinkling of holy water.

After many Epiphany Masses, satchels of blessed chalk, incense, and containers of Epiphany water (holy water blessed with special blessings for Ephiphany) are distributed. These can then be brought home and used to perform the ritual.

Practicing traditions like the chalking of the doors helps us to live our Faith more concretely and serve as an outward sign of our dedication to Our Lord. Our homes are also the place where many of us will make the greatest strides in our spiritual growth, through observance of daily prayer, spiritual reading, and work offered as an oblation to God.

The chalking of the doors of a home encourages Christians to dedicate their life at home to God and to others. Seeing the symbols over our doors can help to remind us, while passing in and out on our daily routines, that our homes and all those who dwell there belong to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of welcoming the Magi gave to Jesus. We should strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes to visit us!

Below, we’ve provided some examples of how this ceremony can be performed.

This ceremony of the blessing of the home and inscription of the initials of the three Magi above each door can be performed either by a priest or the father of the family. The following prayer is taken from the book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Elsa Chaney.

The feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the dioceses of the United States this feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.

Prayer:  (On entering the home)

Leader(Priest, if present, or father of the family) : Peace be to this house.
All: And to all who dwell herein.

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.

All Pray: The Magnificat. During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed. 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.

Leader: Our Father. . .
And lead us not into temptation

All: But deliver us from evil.
Leader: All they from Saba shall come
All: Bringing gold and frankincense.
Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come to You.

Leader: 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. 

All: Amen.