LATROBE, PA. – In continuing the ancient Catholic Epiphany practice of “chalking the doors,” the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey and College will once again distribute pre-printed cards that offer the traditional yearly home blessing.
The practice is called “chalking the doors” because priests traditionally would bless the house and then use chalk to write above the main entrance the specific year, separated by the letters C, M and B (e.g., 20+C+M+B+20, for the 2020 blessing). The inscription is applied as a prayer that Christ will bless homes so marked and that he will stay with those who dwell there throughout the year and with any guest who may cross their threshold.
The letters stand for the Latin blessing, “Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ Bless this House),” as well as the legendary names for the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, most often seen symbolically to represent Asia, Europe and Africa, respectively. As Scripture records, “the three, going into the house, saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11, RSV Catholic edition).” To this day, many Catholics in Latin American cultures call the feast of the Epiphany Dîa de los Reyes (“Three Kings Day”) and, instead of Christmas day, delight in the “twelfth day of Christmas” as the day for exchanging gifts in imitation of the Magi who brought their gifts to the Lord Jesus.
The pre-printed cards include the “20+C+M+B+20” inscription, as well as the traditional “door chalking” prayer, to be offered upon placing the card above the door.
“These days,” said Father Thomas Hart, O.S.B., Saint Vincent College assistant to the president for mission, “the custom has unfortunately fallen into abeyance to the point where fewer and fewer people even know about it. We think it is a tradition worth preserving. We are doing our part to help with ‘remedial catechesis’ so young people can take this God-centered practice with them for their families to enjoy when some day they have homes of their own. We are trying to make it an easy practice to implement, either with chalk or with the pre-printed cards.”
Father Thomas noted that the best time for chalking of the doors is on or near the Fest of the Epiphany (Jan. 6).
“The traditional formal conclusion of the Christmas season has been Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, so it’s not too late,” he said.
Complimentary copies of the Saint Vincent pre-printed chalk blessing cards are available free of charge by sending a self-addressed, stamped #10 business envelope to: Epiphany Blessing, Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA. 15650-2690.
Two different designs are available, a pre-printed blessing card that simulates actual chalking and a more contemporary blessing card.
For more information, contact Father Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS: The two versions of the 2020 Epiphany house blessing card offered by Saint Vincent College
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