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Chalking the Doors, an Epiphany Tradition

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


Overview


The chalking of the doors at Epiphany is a venerable Catholic tradition rooted in the Passover. In Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood so that the Lord would pass over their homes. In Deuteronomy 6:9 God tells the people of Israel:

“These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house… You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

In a similar way, we mark our doors with blessed chalk as a sign that we have invited God’s presence and blessing into our homes. We are placing ourselves under God's protection and asking Divine favor. We ask heavenly protection of Almighty God by the intercession of the three kings.


Chalking the doors involves marking the door of the home with the numbers of the current year with the letters C M B. This recalls the traditional names for the three kings: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Some also suggest that it stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means, “May Christ bless this dwelling!” The crosses placed between the numbers and letters recall the power of Christ's all-perfect sacrifice on Calvary and reminds us we are protected by the Precious Blood of Christ, the Lamb of God.


The Prayers


All pray together:


A Child is born in Bethlehem, alleluia!

Full joyous sings Jerusalem, alleluia, alleluia.

From Orient, behold the star, alleluia,

And holy kings come from afar, alleluia, alleluia.


The father reads the Gospel for the Feast of the Epiphany, St. Matthew 2:1-12.


When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet: And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.


All pray together:


From the East came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures, they offered costly gifts: gold to the Great King, incense to the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial, alleluia!


While the father sprinkles the rooms of the house with Epiphany water obtained from the church or with ordinary holy water, the mother and children recite the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Magnificat.


My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid,

for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is His Name;

And His mercy is from generation to generation

toward those who fear Him.

He has shown might with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones

and has exalted the lowly.

The hungry He has filled with good things

and the rich He has sent empty away.

He has given help to Israel His servant,

mindful of His mercy--

As He promised our fathers--

toward Abraham and his descendants forever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world

without end. Alleluia.


Antiphon: From the East came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord;

and opening their treasures, they offered costly gifts: gold to

the great King, incense to the true God, and myrrh in symbol of

His burial, alleluia!


Father: Many shall come from Saba.

All: Bearing gold and incense.


Father: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come unto Thee.


Father: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal Thy Only-Begotten Son to the Gentiles, grant that we who know Thee by faith may be brought to the contemplation of the heavenly majesty. Through the same Jesus Christ.

All: Amen.


All: Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and upon thee is risen the glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary.


Father: Nations shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brilliance of thy rising.

All: And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.


Father: Let us pray. O Lord, Almighty God, bless this house that it may become a shelter of health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to the Commandments, and thanksgiving to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Upon this house and those who dwell herein may Thy blessing remain forever. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.


With blessed chalk the lintels above the door are marked with the initials of the three kings and with crosses. We use the following form:


Father: Let us pray. O Lord God, through the power of the priest Thou didst bless this creature chalk to make it helpful to man. Grant that we who use it with faith and inscribe with it the names of Thy saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthassar upon the entrance of our homes, may through their merits and petition

enjoy physical health and spiritual protection. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.


The father then writes the initials of the names of the Magi separated by crosses and the year above the door in this manner:


20 + C + M + B + 22


At the conclusion, everyone may sing:



We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh; prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high.


O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.

Glorious now behold him arise; King and God and sacrifice: Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies.

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.


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