Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Catholic Tradition: Feast of the Epiphany


Since the Middle Ages there has been a tradition that on (or near) the feast of the Epiphany we pray for God’s blessing on our homes, marking the entrance with chalk (an incarnational image reminding us of the dust of the earth from which we were made). We mark the main door of our home with the initials of the Magi and the numerals of the new year, connected with crosses:

20 + C + M + B + 11

The initials remind us of the legendary names of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar – and also stand for the Latin motto: Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless this house.” In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood so that the Lord would pass over their homes; but in this ritual, we mark our doors with chalk as a sign that we have invited God’s presence and blessing into our homes.
It is traditional to write the inscription on the lintel, above the door, but it can be written anywhere near the entrance. The following prayer may be said while the entrance is marked:

The three Wise Men,
C Caspar,
M Melchior,
B and Balthasar followed the star of God’s Son who became human
20 two thousand
11 and eleven years ago.
++ May Christ bless our home
++ and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

May this Epiphany Blessing be a reminder that Christ is incarnate in the love and care we manifest to each other in our ordinary daily lives together.

Text from St James the Great, Haydock, UK, via St. Paul’s, Pawtucket.

In addition...

The crosses represent the protection of the Precious Blood of Christ, whom we invoke, and the holiness of the Magi who adored of the infant Jesus. The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God's blessing. The month of January bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing "christens" the ancient Roman observance of the first month.

Here is the traditional blessing of chalks:

Blessing of Chalk

V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Let us pray.

Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk to render it helpful to your people.
Grant that they who use it in faith
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,
may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul.

Through Christ our Lord.

And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.

Here is the prayer to be said when writing the chalk on the door frame:

As you are writing, pray one of the following prayers:

May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; 

and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is Lord, forever and ever. Amen.

Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten Son

to every nation by the guidance of a star.

Bless this house and all who inhabit it.
Fill us with the light of Christ, 

that our concern for others may reflect your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Lord our God, bless this household.
May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, 

and the keeping of your law. 
We give thanks to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever.


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