Friday, 5 January 2007

Epiphany Chalk

It is customary, especially in Central Europe, for the faithful to bless their houses at the Epiphany with blessed chalk. They write over their front door: 20 + C + M + B + 07. Obviously, the digits, which appear at the beginning and end of the line, designate the new year. ‘CMB’ stands for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) and also signifies the Latin prayer Christus Mansionem Benedicat or ‘May Christ bless this dwelling!’

The inscription is made above the front door or porch, so that all who enter and depart the home may enjoy God’s blessing. It also provides a very public witness to the Faith.

In my previous parish, the priests blessed broken bits of chalk (easily purchased from a stationary shop) at the end of each Epiphany Mass, using the traditional formula from the Rituale:

O Lord God, bless this chalk that it may be used for the salvation of the human race. Through the invocation of Thy most Holy Name grant that whoever shall take of this chalk and write with it upon the doors of his house the names of Thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession receive health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

After sprinkling the chalk with Holy Water, it was then distributed to the faithful, together with information sheets explaining the custom. The use of Epiphany Chalk is increasing slowly in this countruy - I keep noticing houses (and particularly presbyteries) with the 'CMB' inscription - and it is encouraged by the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (#118).

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7 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

I've heard of this before, but thank you for reminding us, Father Nicholas.

Can you tell us more about the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, though?

6:02 pm  
Anonymous Fr PF said...

In Bavaria, incense is sometimes distributed to the faithful with the chalk, as the blessing of homes on the Feast of the Epiphany included an incensation of the home, recalling the gift of frankincense brought by one of the Magi.

6:16 pm  
Blogger northern cleric said...

After risking life and limb to chalk above the church and presbytery doors - and providing details on the newsletter of why and how to do this at home, I am always asked how the vandals managed to get up there to scrawl their graffiti!
A German friend tells me that at Epiphany in her village the priests wander round the streets with their stepladders, chalk and holy water, blessing homes.

9:08 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Mark - The Directory on Popular Piety was produced by the Congregation for Divine Worship & the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001 and is published by the Catholic Truth Society (Do682). It basically encourages the various acts of 'popular piety' - and its most useful section (I think) is a survey of the Liturgical Year and the different customs associated with the feasts and seasons (Chapter 4). Worth having a look at.

11:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Transylvania, the RC priests, accompanied by a few accolytes, go from house to house, blessing them with chalk and holy water, very much like the Orthodox priests.

2:02 am  
Blogger Deacon Pat said...

Great blog.....

5:05 am  
Blogger dicotômica[s] said...

Hello Father, my name is Natasha and I'm from Brazil. I would like to bless my house and my parents house, 'cause I see lots of shadows and I feel some things at times. Can You please send me some points on how to do it? thank you so much. Anyone who knows something fell free to send me too. Natasha

6:22 pm  

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