I love things that make me stop and take note. There’s an East European tradition of blessing homes for the Epiphany and marking the lintel above the front door with an inscription written in blessed chalk. The ritual can involve the blessing of each room in the house as well. I’ve read stories about clergy who wandered through towns carrying chalk, holy water, and a step ladder. While having chalk that’s blessed and holy water to sprinkle, and even the presence of clergy is a clear way of showing that what is happening is sacramental, it’s not the easiest thing to arrange. Especially at the last minute.
Still, the idea of beginning the year by thinking about the things I want to take place in the rooms of my home? The ways I want to be? The ways I’d like us to be? Where will my family come together to be quiet? Where will we be still? My family is as busy as most. I can’t imagine that the day will come where we pay someone to create that space. But, you never know. I like the idea of talking about what our mealtime should be like. Of sharing our hopes for what happens to the people who sleep and play and do homework in each room. Of asking my kids about their hopes. Naming and claiming each room together might be a wonderful family activity.
If you’re inspired, why not bring this Epiphany tradition to life this weekend? Bless your home and mark it with chalk: 20+C+M+B+12. The numbers match the year and the letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar; they also stand for the Latin, “Christus Mansionem Benedicat”, which means, “May Christ bless this house.”
The crosses remind us of Christ, and the holiness of the magi. You write the words above the front door, so that every time you come and go, you are reminded of what you claimed, and of the blessing.
How you do it can be as simple as praying the Lord’s prayer together, asking God to bless everyone in the family, and everyone who visits this year. Then you write the inscription above your front door with chalk. Everyone can write part of the inscription, too. Want a prayer that’s already written? You can find a few options here.
I like the idea of revisiting the claims for God’s blessing, each time I see the markings on the lintel. Part of that is because I don’t have any memory of successfully keeping a resolution made once, and late at night. You know the ones I am referring to. Well, aside from writing the correct year on checks. Every year I have to learn that one over, and over, again. It’s not that I’m not trying. The repetition helps. If I didn’t write it again and again, I’m not sure the change would sink in.
That matches the sense I have, that most of the time, that change happens step by step. It’s incremental, the product of ongoing reflection, and action with intention. I choose again, and again, and again, the way a painting comes together, brush stroke after brush stroke.
Parker Palmer says that the call of Christmas is “to be born and born and re-born, again, and again, and again.” A few weeks ago I wrote, about the “yes” we give each other, and the “yes” that babies require, because they’re so delicate, and fragile. When we have the courage to be ourselves, in those moments, I think we’re as delicate as babies. And yet as they grow up, or as our marriage partnerships continue, we can forget that simple truth.
All the more reason to stop and consider who it is that we share our lives with, as we come and go.
Thanks for sharing this tradition, Andy. I hadn’t heard of it. I do something similar, however. After taking down the Christmas decorations, I thoroughly clean each room, washing away the past year and making space for the new. I try to bless each space. I can’t always get it done in a day, but by the end of January each space has had time and a blessing. It helps me focus through the new year, give thanks for what I have and if I find things other can use, I pass them long to restore energy to the space.