You will frequently see the cryptic message 20 + C + M + B + a two digit number written in chalk above the doors of homes in Germany. The chalk is the sign of an Epiphany blessing that has been offered for the home.
The first and last digits mark the coming of the new year: 2015. The letters C, M and B are the initials of the three names which legend has ascribed to the magi – Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar – the Wise Men from the east who came to pay homage to the infant Jesus. Epiphany is a celebration of the Wise Men’s visit and concludes the Christmas season.
The letters also stand for the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat, or “May Christ bless the house.” The + is a sign of the cross.
Episcopalian priest Michael Marsh at Interupting the Silence has a nice format for the blessig ritual, which I have adapted below.
May God bless you and your home this year.
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Blessing of 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 for evermore.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.
Let us pray.
Loving God, grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name, all who use this chalk in faith to write upon the doors of their homes the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit their home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing the Home
Using chalk, mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 15 saying:
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has revealed himself to all the nations and has invited all people to put their faith in his only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son, who was born to Mary and Joseph two thousand and fifteen years ago. May the light of Christ shine within this home and in the lives of all who dwell here, now and throughout the coming year.
Then say 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, defend and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.
At times God has commanded his people to mark their doors. The Israelites marked their doors with the lamb’s blood on the night of the passover. A similar command was given with the Shema Yisrael:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart … and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 9)
“Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and home. With time the chalk will fade. May God’s seal upon our hearts endure through all eternity.