Sunday, January 06, 2013

Chalking the Doors

....has become an important tradition at St Matthew's over the past 5 Epiphanies - but every year when I mention it online there are cries of "You what.....?" so, for those who want to know what we do and why we do it

Chalking the Doors is more common in Catholic Europe - when I was in Prague last year we saw several houses with doors most beautifully inscribed. It's in one way an echo of the sign that the Israelites marked on their lintels at the time of Passover to ensure that the angel of death passed over their homes...but this sign is an indication to the wise traveller that the Christ child may be found within. We bless chalk and then inscribe the door of our church
20 C + M + B 13....the initials that legend has ascribed to the wise men, Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. Blessed chalk is also offered to the families to take home with them, for the inscription also stands as  a shorthand blessing of the house
"Christus Mansionem Benedicat" "Christ bless this house" 
Here's the mini liturgy I use. It's not remotely formal as the doors we use at church have glass panels, so the children who actually WANT to do the chalking have to be hoisted on high and this year at least none of them was older than 6 - so there was much hilarity along the way...but nonetheless I'm really glad we do this, both at church and at home.

O God, you once used a star to show to all the world that Jesus is your Son. May the light of that star that once guided wise men to honour his birth, now guide us to recognize him also, to know you by faith, and to see you in the epiphany experiences of our daily lives.
As the Wise Men once sought your brilliant light, O Lord, so may we seek to live and work in your splendour.

Lord Jesus, through your Incarnation and birth you have made all the earth holy. We now ask your blessing upon this simple gift of your creation — chalk. We use it as a tool to teach our children, and they use it as a tool in their play and games. Now, with your blessing, may it become a tool for us to mark the doors of our home with the symbols of your wise servants who, so long ago, came to worship and adore you in your first home.

People in turn mark the doorway with one or more of the symbols:

O God of Light, bless this house and this family. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family cultivate the gifts and graces you have given us, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all.
Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care. And when we go out from this place, may we never lose sight of that Epiphany star.
As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.

May we, in this house, and all who come to visit, to work, and to play, remember these things throughout the coming year. May all who come and go here find peace, comfort, joy, hope, love, and salvation, for Christ has come to dwell in this house and in these hearts.

All: May we be Christ's light in the world. Amen

Long after Epiphany has faded in the memory, the presence the chalk marks on the vicarage door reminds me every time I go through it that God watches over our going out and our coming in,- turning the door itself into a sacramental sign of God's presence. It reminds me too, if I pause to think, that I may expect to find the Christ both within our walls and out in His world - Emmanuel, God with us.

All that in a few letters - holy graffiti on our door.

4 comments:

Mary Beth said...

lovely. wish i could see a pic of the little ones doing it.

Perpetua said...

Holy graffiti - I love it, Kathryn. The idea is new to me, but very meaningful.

zorra said...

What a beautiful ritual.I'd love to take part in that.

chaplain.cz said...

The previous commenter Perpetua, has drawn my attention to this post. If you want to see a current Czech example of this, see the photo at the end of my recent blog post http://rickyyates.com/epiphany/