On Twelfth-Night in Europe, many families gather in their homes to celebrate this feast with friends, food, singing, and gifts. It is at these Twelfth-Night celebrations that “Chalking the Door” is most often observed.
What is Chalking the Door?
This short liturgy is a way of marking our homes, usually at the front or main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols as we ask God’s blessing upon those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year. In Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood so that the Lord would pass over their homes; but in this service, we mark our doors with chalk as a sign that we have invited God’s presence and blessing into our homes
In Great Britain, the service commonly takes place on Twelfth-Night, January 6th. This date is also observed as Epiphany, commemorating the visiting of the Christ Child by the three Magi (Wise Men) with their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. On Twelfth-Night in Europe, many families gather in their homes to celebrate this feast with friends, food, singing, and gifts. It is at these Twelfth-Night celebrations that “Chalking the Door” is most often observed.
Chalk is used in this service as an ordinary substance made of common elements of the earth, put to holy use. Chalk will not permanently mark the dwelling. As its image fades from view over time, those who participated in its original placement will remember it and the purpose for which it was intended. In doing so, they may rededicate themselves to that purpose. After a year passes and a new Epiphany arrives, they will have the opportunity once again to celebrate the themes of this season and once again to seek God’s blessing on their homes and on those who come and go through its doors.
What do the numbers and letters mean?
The numbers at the beginning and end of the inscription simply refer to the current year – in the picture above, 2008. The letters C M B come from the traditional names for the three kings: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Some also suggest “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means, “May Christ bless this dwelling!”
A Liturgy for Chalking the Door (please credit the source)
The following “Chalking the Door” service is by Paul F. Bosch and Andre Lavergne from Lift Up Your Hearts © 1996, 2002 from the ELCIC’s Gathered for Worship © 1995. Permission granted for non-profit use as long as this source is credited.
On the Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6, family and friends gather at the main entrances to homes or apartments (nursing home quarters, extended care facility, hospital rooms!), and ask God’s blessing on their dwellings and on all who live or visit there. Leadership may be shared with a change of voice at each Leader’s part.
Leader: Peace be to this house and to all who enter here.
Leader: A reading from Proverbs: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
Leader: Let us pray: Gracious God, as a shining star once guided the magi to the birthplace of the infant Jesus, so enable those who dwell here to be your light in the world; through Jesus Christ we pray.
Using chalk, people are invited to inscribe the lintel of the home (the horizontal frame above the door) with the inscription shown below. Each person takes a turn to make one or more of the marks:
20 + C + M + B + 11
(Change the last number to the current year.)
Leader: A reading from Isaiah: “The effect of righteousness is peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and quiet places.”
People may join hands, or extend their hands outward and upward (orans) for the prayers.
Leader: Let us pray: Sovereign God, we pray that you will bless this home and all who live here with your gracious presence, that your love may be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light, and your peace our benediction; through Jesus Christ we pray.
Leader: Lord, remember your children and teach us to pray:
All: Our Father…
People may make the sign of the cross in remembrance of their baptism.
Leader: May the Lord watch + over our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.
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