“We 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 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 5th. This date is, of course, the eve of Epiphany (January 6th), 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.
The inscription written above the door is as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 16
(Change the last number to the current year)
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!”
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.
Liturgy, Prayers, and How-to for Chalking the Door
Click the image and link below for a free PDF on chalking the door. This printable and sharable document contains prayers and a liturgy that you can use to chalk the door at your home or church.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.
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