In certain parts of the world, it is customary to ask God's blessing on homes and workplaces – not only on the buildings themselves, but also upon all who live, work, and visit there. Last week, on Epiphany (Friday, Jan. 6) the Leadership Development Mission Focus team met and before getting down to "brass tacks," utilized a short liturgy, a Chalking the Door Service, to ask God's blessing upon its work in 2012.
The night before Epiphany is known as Twelfth-Night. It is then that many families in Europe gather in their homes to celebrate the feast with friends, food, singing, and gifts – and it is at these Twelfth-Night celebrations that "Chalking the Door" is most commonly observed.
The liturgy is linked to the Wise Men's visit to the Christ Child, commemorated at Epiphany, when after faithfully following the star, the Magi reached the Baby and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Linda Caldwell, Conference Superintendent for Mission Collaboration, says the ritual involves putting the initials C, M, and B on a door. The initials stand for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the names traditionally given to the Wise Men (though their names are not found in Scripture). The C, M, and B also may stand for "Christus Mansionem Benedicat," meaning, "May Christ bless this dwelling."
"It's a way of marking the doors when you go in and out, so that you know that this place is blessed. You ask a blessing for all who are within, that they will have those everyday Epiphanies of Christ's presence," Caldwell says.
Chalk is used "as an ordinary substance put to holy use," according to the General Board of Discipleship's Worship website. And since images etched in chalk fade gradually from view, those who participated in the original service will see the progression over time and remember the ceremony and its purpose – perhaps rededicating themselves to that purpose as they remember.
"O God of Light, bless this house and our community of faith. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this community cultivate the gifts and graces you have bestowed, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all." (courtesy of the GBOD Worship website and Sister Marta Elena Ceballos, Sister of the Good Shepherd, Roman Catholic Church. Used by permission.)
(Shown in photo immediately above are, from left, Gayle Shearman, Conference Co-Lay Leader, and the Rev. Kathy La Point-Collup, both members of the Mission Development Mission Focus team.)