Today, January 6th, is the Feast Day of the Epiphany. It comes the day after the twelfth day of Christmas, meaning Christmastide is over and it is now Epiphanytide (though we don’t often use that term to describe these weeks in between Christmastide and Lent–with the Baptism of the Lord and Transfiguration Sundays thrown in there too). Epiphany means “manifestation.” It is on this day that we read the story of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) and their journey to meet the Christ child in Bethlehem. God is made manifest to them in little Jesus, and they offer him their precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in response.
Last year, when I was still in the first week of scrubbing the house and preparing for my dad’s arrival, I distinctly remember going to bed late on the night of Epiphany (so late I suppose it was probably January 7th already…). At some point prior I had been googling ideas about Epiphany to find some inspirational piece to send out to the hospice staff, when I came across this tradition: Chalking the Door. It’s practiced by the Carmelite monastic order and is essentially an opportunity to re-bless one’s house every year on Epiphany. The intention is to invite Jesus into one’s home, and to ask God to make Godself manifest to those who visit this home in the ensuing year. I wanted to do this ritual in my new home, but it just wasn’t time–I was tired and it was late and I didn’t have any chalk and it would just have to be done the next year.
So guess what? It’s the next year…! So I invited my friend Norm over, who also did my “original” full-fledged house blessing in March (which I’ll have to write about this coming March when I celebrate that anniversary too). The blessing is a lovely, simple liturgy that begins with the blessing of the chalk:
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 for evermore.
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.
Then, the ritual continues by writing in chalk, either on the lintel above the door or on the side of the door, as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 16
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
It was such a simple ceremony, but one that was important to me as I begin my first full year of living in my home. I was aware that I felt a bit sad about the prayers being written with the plural pronouns “our’s” and “we’s” given that it’s just a “my” and “I” who lives here alone now. But, I view my home as a place for community and hospitality, and know that the Holy Spirit dwells here with me when I am on my own. Honestly, I pretty much love living alone, but the “our’s” and “we’s” did remind me that I don’t have an “our” or “we” sense in my life currently, but which I did used to have. I’m actually not sure I could ever live with someone else here, 1) because it’s just such a special place for me to be alone right now, and 2) because I just need a lot of personal space, and it might be too small to share with another. (Hey, I grew up in the woods on 20 acres–can you blame me for needing a little room to spread out??!!)
But for now, I’m grateful that I can trust in God’s presence dwelling here with me in my home, and I do hope and believe that people are blessed when they come and go from this place. This month will be a busy one for gatherings at Satis House, between my several varying groups of girlfriends who will come over to do art projects, drink wine, talk about books, and generally share our lives with one another. I look forward to them and many others coming and going from this blessed home.
Christus mansionem benedicat. May Christ bless the house in 2016.