Subtitle: Is the 20+C+M+B+16 written over your doorway some kind of secret code?
Catholics love stuff. From Holy Water to holy medals, we like things we can see and touch. We also like to bless everything: our food, our home, our car, hospitals, boats... We will even bless bridges and airports if you ask. Some brilliant Catholics found a way to combine them both: Bless your house AND make the blessing visible. It's the classic Epiphany home blessing with blessed chalk.
Epiphany, the day the Wise Men saw Baby Jesus, is traditionally celebrated on January 6. In many countries including Russia and Italy, Epiphany is the day children get presents (after all, it was the day Jesus got his presents). I don't think the day itself is particularly important for the blessing. The idea is more that people are bringing the Christmas blessings home and entrusting their home to Christ. In my parishes we will be handing out blessed chalk at the end of Christmas Mass. Parishioners are encouraged to use the chalk to bless their homes sometime during the Christmas season.
It's rather hard to find blessed chalk. I had to resort to the internet to find a blessing prayer for chalk. You say a prayer and sprinkle the chalk with holy water - you need blessed stuff to bless stuff, apparently. There are lots of versions of a home blessing prayer so I used a couple sources to piece something together. It is my opinion that the prayer itself is what blesses the home, not the chalk. I'm sure you could follow the ritual below, sprinkle the home with holy water, and then mark the doors with ordinary chalk and the results would be just as satisfactory. The numbers are for the year, and the CMB stand for one of two things:
- Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for "may Christ bless this house."
- Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar, the traditional names of the Three Wise Men.
Epiphany Blessing of a Home with ChalkThis prayer should be led by the father/head of the household. If you live alone, consider throwing a home blessing party with a few friends. Choose someone to read the short explanation below. Begin by gathering the group around the Christmas crèche or an image of the Holy Family.
ALL: + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
LEADER: Let us praise God, who fills our hearts and homes with peace. Blessed be God for ever.
ALL RESPOND: Blessed be God for ever.
READER: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was welcomed into the womb of Mary and the stable of Bethlehem. Christ comes wherever He is welcomed. Let us welcome Him into this home. The wise men came in search of the baby Jesus; may they find Him in our home and here adore Christ present among us. May Christ fill all present with peace, joy, and love.
LEADER: Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your own begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
ALL TOGETHER: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
LEADER: Let Us Pray: Hear us, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, and send Your Holy Angel from Heaven to watch over, cherish, protect, be with, and defend all who live in this house. I call upon Your Saints, Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar, to protect my family and my home from every harm and danger, and I place the marks of their holy names over the doors of my home to remain there as a constant reminder to us and to all who enter here that my house is truly a house of the Lord. O God, make the door of my house wide enough to receive all who need human love and companionship; narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power. O God, make the door of my house the gateway to Your eternal Kingdom. I ask these things in the Name of Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen.
20+C+M+B+16With the chalk, write 20+C+M+B+16 above each exterior door, the doors to each bedroom, and any other door so desired. The CMB is Latin for Christus Mansionem Benedicat meaning “may Christ bless this house.” It also stands for the traditional names of the three wise men: Casper, Melchior and Balthazar. The numbers are for the current year, 2016.
LEADER: May Christ Jesus dwell with us, keep us from all harm, and make us one in mind and heart, now and forever. Amen.
Sources: Arrangement by Fr. Joel Sember from The Book of Blessings and http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2012/01/blessing-of-epiphany-chalk.html