Epiphany House Blessing
Due to the linking of the liturgy to the visit of the three Magi, it is most appropriately used at the start of the season of Epiphany. But because the service is so flexible in where it may be used, it might be used any time during the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany — or as part of a celebration observing the changing of the secular calendar from one year (or millennium) to the next.
In Great Britain, the service commonly takes place on Twelfth-Night. We know that Christmas Day is December 25 and that there are twelve days of (or after) Christmas, variously observed as December 25 through January 5 or December 26 through January 6. The twelfth day of Christmas (Twelfth-Day), January 6, is also observed as Epiphany, commemorating the visiting of the Christ Child by the three Magi (Wise Men) with their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. The season of Epiphany is also known as Twelfth-Tide; and the night before Twelfth-Day (Epiphany) is known as Twelfth-Night. On Twelfth-Night in Europe, many families gather in their homes to celebrate this feast with friends, food, singing, and gifts. It is at these Twelfth-Night celebrations that “Chalking the Door” is most often observed. (2)
Chalk, a substance made of common elements of the earth, is used by teachers to instruct students and by children in their games and play. We use chalk in this service as an ordinary substance put to holy use. Further, chalk will not permanently mar the dwelling. As its image fades from view over time, those who participated in its original placement will remember it and the purpose for which it was intended. In doing so, they may rededicate themselves to that purpose. After a year passes and a new Epiphany arrives, they will have the opportunity once again to celebrate the themes of this season and once again to seek God’s blessing on their homes and on those who come and go through the home.
The family gathers to ask God’s blessing on their home and on those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.
A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + (insert year). The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, then write the year at the end.
Blessing the Chalk (by priest beforehand)
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
BLESSING OF HOMES on Epiphany by priest (or father of the house)
As the priest comes into the home he says:
P: God’s peace be in this home.
All: And in all who live here.
P. Ant.: Magi from the East came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasure chests they presented Him with precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.
Canticle of the Magnificat
P: “My soul extols the Lord;
All: And my spirit leaps for joy in God my Savior.
P: How graciously He looked upon His lowly maid! * Oh, see, from this hour onward age after age will call me blessed!
All: How sublime is what He has done for me, * the Mighty One, whose name is ‘Holy’!
P: From age to age He visits those * who worship Him in reverence.
All: His arm achieves the mastery: * He routs the haughty and proud of heart.
P: He puts down princes from their thrones, * and exalts the lowly;
All: He fills the hungry with blessings, * and sends away the rich with empty hands.
P: He has taken by the hand His servant Israel, * and mercifully kept His faith,
All: As He had promised our fathers * with Abraham and his posterity forever and evermore.”
P: Glory be to the Father.
All: As it was in the beginning.
Meanwhile the home is sprinkled with holy water and incensed (if available). At the end of the Magnificat the antiphon is repeated. Then the priest says Our Father (the rest inaudibly until:)
P: And lead us not into temptation.
All: But deliver us from evil.
P: Many shall come from Saba.
All: Bearing gold and incense.
P: Lord, heed my prayer.
All: And let my cry be heard by you.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May he also be with you.
Let us pray.
God, who on this day revealed your only-begotten Son to all nations by the guidance of a star, grant that we who now know you by faith may finally behold you in your heavenly majesty; through Christ our Lord.
Responsory: Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for your light is come; and upon you is risen the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.
P: Nations shall walk in your light, and kings in the splendor of- your birth.
All: And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
Let us pray.
Lord God almighty, bless this home, and under its shelter let there be health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to your commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May your blessing remain always in this home and on those who live here; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen. (5)
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + (insert year) while saying:
The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and nineteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. 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.” (1)