by Christine Sine
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 in Europe chalk their doors with a pattern such as this, “20 † C † M † B † 19”. The numbers refer to the calendar year (20 and 19, for this year); 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 (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar), as well as an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, May Christ bless this house. Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request for Christ to bless our homes and stay with those who dwell in them throughout the entire year. I first saw this practice on our recent trip to Germany and I thought this was a cool thing to do each year. We were there in July but the chalk marks were still above the doors.
The chalking of the doors is a centuries-old practice throughout the world, though less well-known in the United Sates. It is, however, an easy tradition to adopt, and a great practice for dedicating our year to God and asking for our Creator’s blessing on our homes and on all who live, work, or visit them. The prayer above is adapted from a house blessing I was invited to several years ago. It in turn was adapted from a longer prayer in Celtic Daily Prayer which you might want to use for your own house blessing. You can find another great blessing practice here or might like to use the house blessing in The
We did a house blessing after we remodeled our house a couple of years ago and had people write words of blessing on some of the left over remnants of tiles that we put in our kitchen. I still have them in a bowl and occasionally look through them to remind myself of the blessings that friends bestowed on us. However I love the idea of doing this on a yearly basis.
I also love the way Jan Richardson talks about this and her suggestion to think of your house as a new year in her poem: The Year As A House: A Blessing.
Think of the year
as a house:
door flung wide
a graced spaciousness
opening and offering itself
She also does wonderful art which is perfect for reflection as you can see on this free downloadable Women’s Christmas Retreat Day. I know it is already after Christmas but this is something worth downloading and setting aside time to use.
Jan Richardson’s “Wise Women Also Came” is appropriate for this Monday (and Sunday too) as Christian Churches mark Epiphany Sunday with the Biblical story of the Magi bringing gifts from afar to honor baby Jesus. Over the centuries people have moved the Wise Ones from Jan. 6 back to Dec. 25 and included them in the stable with Mary, Joseph, etc. as two separate birth narratives, one from the Gospel of Luke and the other the Gospel of Matthew. Both stories are quite different and each author has their own theological agenda to lift up to the early Christian Church.