By Fr. Mark Perkins
This year St. Alban’s has instituted the custom of chalking the church doors during Epiphany using the liturgy appended below (in plain text and as a PDF). We used the opportunity to encourage parishioners to have their homes blessed or, if they have already had a home blessing, to invite the clergy to come chalk their doors during the Epiphany season. But we also encouraged them to chalk their own doors, if they preferred, using the same liturgy (but skipping the blessings, incensing, and sprinkling).
We bless persons, animals, places — as the Priest’s Manual puts it, “Any Thing Whatsoever” (205). We do so not only to call down God's favor but, even more, to dedicate all things to God. A house blessing claims a home for God, which indeed brings God’s grace upon it, but it also sets the home apart for God — reminding the occupants that they are but stewards of God’s graces, with a responsibility to treat their possessions as ultimately God’s and as dedicated to God’s glory.
Chalking the doors at Epiphany — whether associated with a full house blessing or not — reminds us of this truth in particularly apt ways. The marking of the door, of course, evokes the blood on the doorposts in the Passover story (see Exodus 12) — a sign that a dwelling place belongs to the covenant people of God. The “C M B” stands both for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” — “Christ this house bless” — but also the names tradition gives to the wise men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. And just as the wise men brought gifts to the feet of Jesus, we offer up our homes and all who dwell there to the service and praise of God.
The liturgy below was drawn from the Priest’s Manual (175) and combined with elements from a liturgy found over at The Homely Hours (see the link at the bottom of this lovely reflection on the tradition).
If you have not had your home blessed, ask your priest to do so — and, since it is the season of Epiphany, have him chalk your doors as well! Of course, the laity may chalk their own doors using the liturgy below (again, simply skipping over the priestly blessings and incense and sprinkling — though for the final blessing, “you” may be changed to “us,” i.e. BCP page 593).
The glory of the Lord be with you this Epiphany, and always!
The Chalking of the Doors
M: Peace be to this house.
R: And to all that dwell in it.
Antiphon: From the east there came wise men to Bethlehem, to worship the Lord; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented him precious gifts: gold as to a mighty King, incense as to the true God, and myrrh to foreshew his burial, alleluia.
The blessing of chalk may occur here. Then, while the Magnificat is recited, the doors may be incensed and sprinkled with blessed water.
All: MY soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
The minister then chalks the door in the order described below, starting with “C M B.”
M: From the east there came wise men… (C) Caspar, (M) Melchior, and (B) Balthasar… to Bethlehem, to worship the Lord; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented him precious gifts: gold as to a mighty King, incense as to the true God, and myrrh to foreshew his burial, alleluia.
C M B
Two thousand (20) and twenty-two (22) years ago.
20 C M B 22
20 C + M B 22
20 C + M + B 22
20 C + M + B + 22
Christ this house bless, now and evermore.
20 + C + M + B + 22
All: Our Father…
M: All they from Sheba shall come.
R: They shall bring gold and incense.
M: O Lord, hear my prayer
R: And let my cry come unto thee.
M: The Lord be with you
R: And with thy spirit.
M: Let us pray.
O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
All: Arise, shine O Jerusalem, for thy light is come: and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary.
M: The gentiles shall come to thy light: and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
R: And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
M: The Lord bl+ess you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, this day and evermore. Amen.
Fr. Mark Perkins is Curate at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral in Oviedo, Florida and Executive Editor of Earth & Altar.