LATROBE, PA – The Benedictine monks of the Saint Vincent Archabbey will once again continue the ancient Epiphany blessing tradition of “chalking the doors” in a contemporary way.
In order to invoke the prayer “May Christ Bless This House” on campus residence hall and office doorways, as well as off campus on the doors of faculty, staff, alumni and friends, the monks are distributing pre-printed cards to affix above doors, instead of writing the blessing by hand in chalk directly on the doors.
“The monks in our campus ministry office still chalk many doors on campus for those who request it,” said Father Thomas Hart, O.S.B., Saint Vincent College assistant to the president for mission. “But, with thousands of doors on campus, we now offer pre-printed ‘chalking’ cards to continue this mysterious and wonderful tradition from when there were enough priests to actually go around.
“These days,” he continued, “the tradition has unfortunately fallen in abeyance to the point where fewer and fewer people even know about it. We think it is a tradition worth preserving.”
Epiphany, also known as Theophany, Twelfth Night or Three Kings Day, is commemorated on Jan. 6 and marks the Christian tradition of “chalking the doors” by using blessed chalk to write the following above a doorway: 20 + C + M + B + 21.
Inscribed with the Cross of Christian salvation, the letters abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedictat: “May Christ Bless This House,” as well as the initials of the traditional names of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar – who Scripture records, “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, and frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).” The “20” at the beginning and the “21” at the end denotes the current year. This inscription is applied as a prayer that Christ will bless the homes so marked and stay with those who dwell there throughout the year and any guest who may cross their threshold.
To this day, many Catholics in Latin American cultures call the Feast of the Epiphany “Día de los Reyes,” or “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.
Father Thomas noted that the best time for the chalking of the doors is on or near the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, but it can be done through the traditional formal conclusion of the Christmas season, marked with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2.
Complimentary copies of the Saint Vincent pre-printed chalk blessing cards are available free of charge. Two different designs of the pre-printed cards are available – one that simulates the actual traditional chalking and one with a more contemporary design depicting the visit to the child and Mary by the three Magi.
To obtain a card, identify which design is requested and send a self-addressed, stamped #10 envelope to Epiphany Blessing, Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650-2690.
For more information, contact Father Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO 1: The pre-printed card simulating the traditional chalking of the doors
PHOTO 2: The pre-printed cared depicting the visit of the three Magi to the child and Mary