On Epiphany of 2019, I noticed doors, all along one street, with an odd inscription above the door or to the right side: 20+C+M+B+19. Never saw this and I was curious, so I had to stop and knock on a door.
After assuring the woman who answered the door that I wasn’t there to rob her or sell her a vacuum cleaner, she was more than happy to explain.
“After mass yesterday,” said Verónica, “we come home and bless the house with this.”
Verónica said that this is something she used to do as a child.
“It’s not common now, today,” said Verónica. “When I was a child, sixty, seventy years ago, it was ubiquitous.”
So, what do the markings mean?
“CMB” refers to the names of the Wise Men who visited the Holy Family – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Another meaning for “CMB” is Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates for the Latin to “May Christ bless this home.” The numbers before and after the initials are the year.
“When we do this,” said Verónica, “we are asking we the Lord to bless our house and our family for this year.”
Chalking the doorway is done as a blessing. A blessing for the home, for those who live there, for those who might come and visit. It’s a reminder of God’s presence in our lives and dedication, to Him, of everything that will happen throughout the year to God.
Coming from an Orthodox background, I can see the correlations between the chalking of doorways and the celebration of Passover when the Israelites were preparing to flee Egypt and placed blood on the doorposts of their homes.”
The traditional way of chalking the doorway is to write above the door – for this year – 20+C+M+B+20.
Have you blessed your home yet?
If you haven’t, why not start this tradition today? We include the blessing for the chalk and for blessing the home below.
Blessing the Chalk
V. Our help is the name of the Lord:
R. The maker of heaven and earth.
V. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
R. From this time forth forevermore.
Let us pray.Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Instructions for Blessing the Home
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 20 while saying:
The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and fifteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.
Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen
This is a beautiful tradition but not one I witnessed in my youth. I would certainly encourage any family to adopt the practice at Epiphany. It does remind us of ancient roots. It calls us to bring the practice of our Faith to the place we live.— Bishop Mark J. Seitz (@BishopSeitz) January 7, 2020