A church archway chalked with the blessing 20 + C + M + B + 24Chalked archway

This year I’ve prepared a revised version of the blessing of chalk and doorway for Epiphany for our diocese and I thought I might as well share it here as well. The tradition of blessing chalk at the Epiphany Mass, marking the doorway of the church, and giving people chalk to take home and bless their doorway is slowly becoming more widely known and used. But it still feels a bit under-resourced.

This picks up, among other things, Jewish traditions of marking the doorposts of the house with biblical texts (Deuteronomy 6:9), the theme of the Holy Family welcoming visitors to their home to visit the Christ-child, and a reminder of the importance of hospitality throughout the Scriptures. Because of the timing of Epiphany, it also offers a chance to pray for God’s blessing as we cross the threshold of the new year.

The letters and numbers that people chalk on their doors pick up the new year, the Epiphany story, and the prayer for blessing in a simple formula, written like this (for this year!) 20 + C + M + B + 24. The 20 and 24 are of course the beginning and end of the year’s date. The middle three letters stand for the traditional names of the wise men (magi): Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also represent the initials of the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat” – “Christ bless the house.” Together they represent our prayer at the start of the year that our homes, too, may be places blessed by the love and light of Christ.

Prayers for use in Church

These prayers are written on the assumption they are going to be used between the post-communion prayers and the final hymn, or between the final hymn and the blessing. If they’re used in other contexts they may need adapting.

Our help is the name of the Lord, 
who has made heaven and earth.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in; 
from this time forth for evermore.

The chalk is blessed.

Blessed are you, Lord our God:
in the home of Mary and Joseph
you provided a dwelling-place on earth
for your eternal Word.
Bless this chalk,
that those who mark their doorways with it
may know your blessing in their home,
and share your love with all who cross its threshold;
we make our prayer through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The church door may be marked at this point, or after the final hymn.
20 + C + M + B + 24

This prayer may be used after the marking of the church door.

Gracious God,
as your people gathered in worship,
may we welcome friend and stranger.
As your people sent out in mission,
may we serve all as sister and brother.
At the threshold of the church,
at the threshold of the year,
bless us in out coming in and our going out,
that the light of Christ’s love may be our lode-star,
and walking in its light all the days of our life,
we may find our ourselves at home in your eternal presence,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Prayers to use at Home

The Lord be with you
and also with you.

Matthew 2:1-12 may be read.

The wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, saw from afar the star of God’s Son who took our flesh 2024 years ago. Following this sign, they came to Bethlehem and crossed the threshold of his birthplace, where they found the blessing they had sought so long. As we mark the threshold of our home in memory of their journey, at this threshold of the new year, we pray Christ will bless our home and remain with us throughout this year.

The doorway is marked with chalk: 20 + C + M + B + 24.

Visit, Lord, we pray, this home with the joy of your presence.
Bless all who live here with the gift of your love.
Help us share your care and compassion with one another,
to make this a place of welcome and strength,
of blessing and friendship,
that all who pass through this doorway
may find a hearth and home lit by the light of love.
May we grow with Christ in truth and wisdom,
as we learn to follow in his steps,
and take on his yoke,
that we may be blessed by his grace,
and find refreshment for ourselves, soul and body,
as we walk in his light into the adventure of this new year.
We make our prayer through the same Christ our Lord.
Amen.

By Doug

2 thought on “Epiphany: marking the threshold”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.