Chalking the Doors

I had never heard of this tradition before, but I stumbled across an old Epiphany custom in the Book of Common Worship (BCW) called, “Chalking the Doors.” Epiphany, you’ll remember, is the end of the Christmas season when we mark the time the wise men came to visit the child Jesus, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (It’s on January 6, this year a Sunday.)

If you have any Epiphany traditions at your house, I’d be interested in hearing them. The holiday seems to get lost as we cut off Christmastide at the New Year. Now is the season for getting your life in order, setting goals, making resolutions.

Epiphany invites us to stay in the Christmas story a little longer, recognizing that the events of Christmas and the presence of God-with-us matter throughout the year.

What does this have to do with chalking the doors? This tradition is a kind of house blessing. You go outside to your front door and write the year and the letters C, M, and B divide by crosses. It looks like this: 20 + C + M + B + 19. C, M, and B represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the names tradition gives to the wise men who visited Jesus. It also abbreviates the phrase Christus mansionem benedictat or “Christ bless this house.”

I’m not sure this is very Reformed (I’m pretty positive it isn’t). But maybe it can remind us all that God-with-us is with us throughout 2019. So rather than “Happy New Year” I say, “Happy Epiphany.”

The following is a prayer from the BCW that accompanies the practice:

God of doors and homes,

bless this home this year and every year.

Bless all how come and go through this door,

both those who live here and those who visit.

May all who enter through this door

come in peace and bring joy.

May all who come to this door

find welcome and love.

May the love and joy of this home overflow

and spread into the community and the world.

And may Jesus the Christ watch over us all. Amen.