The Epiphany of ‘Chalking the Door’

Kathryn Carpenter Penlas

You may have seen it, especially if you’ve been to Germany or other parts of Europe – a mysterious series of letters & numbers, looking to all the world like an equation, inscribed in chalk over a doorway.

Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night, Theophany, or Three Kings Day) marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of “chalking the doors.” The formula for the ritual — adapted for 2017 — is simple: take chalk of any color & write the following above the entrance of your home: 20 + K + M + B + 17.

The letters have two meanings: 1st they represent the initials of the Magi — Kaspar, Melchior, & Balthazar — who came to visit the Jesus of the Matthew Gospel.

The letters are also an abbreviate of the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross.

And the “20” at the beginning & the “17” at the end mark the year.

Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request that Christ bless the house & those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.

The chalking of the doors is a centuries-old practice throughout the world, though it appears to be someone less well-known in the United States. It is, however, an easy tradition to adopt, & a great practice where we can dedicate ourselves to the ideals of the Christ-Impulse from the very beginning of each year.

The timing for the chalking of the doors varies somewhat in practice. In some places, it is done on New Year’s Day. More commonly, it is performed after 6pm on the Eve of Epiphany, or on the morning of January 6th— the traditional Feast of the Epiphany — the 12th Day of Christmas.

When I was growing up, all the old Italian ladies would do it after Epiphany Mass. It can be done at any church, home, or dwelling.  In the very old days the blessing was done by either a priest or the head of the family, but here in the US, it’s usually the grandmothers or the children that want to do it! This blessing can be performed simply by just writing the inscription & offering an intention or short prayer, or more elaborately, including songs, prayers, processions, the burning of incense, & the sprinkling of holy water.

I remember the days when I would go to the Epiphany Mass with my grandma, & they gave out satchels of blessed chalk, incense, & containers of holy water blessed especially for Epiphany. Another common practice, that my Straga-ma always observed was to save a few grains of the Epiphany incense until Easter, so that it could be burned along with the Easter candle.

Practicing traditions like the chalking of the doors helps us to awaken to the mysteries behind the Holidays. It is a practical concrete way to observe & it serves as an outward sign of our dedication to being more conscious in our thinking, feeling & willing. To consciously take the time to bless our homes – the place where many of us will make the greatest strides in our spiritual growth, through observance of daily meditation, spiritual reading to the dead, & work offered freely with love – is vital.

It also serves as a reminder of the wise welcoming that the Magi gave to the Christ Child. We can also strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes. To greet the Christ within every body that crosses the threshold.

Below, are some examples of how this ceremony can be performed.

Some of the prayers are from the book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Elsa Chaney, some are from memory.

The feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. Sometimes this feast is moved to New Year’s Day or the Sunday between January 2 & January 8.

Prayer:

On entering the home,

Leader : Peace be to this house.
All: And to all who dwell herein.

All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His healing and His death.

All Pray: The Magnificat. During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed. After this is completed,

Leader: the Our Father is recited. . .
And lead us not into temptation

All: But deliver us from the evil.
Leader: All they from Saba shall come
All: Bringing gold and frankincense.
Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come to You.

Leader: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star did on this day manifest The Christ.

All: Amen.

Leader: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee—Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

All: And people shall walk in your light and kings in the splendor of your rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon us all.

Leader: Let us pray.
Bless, + O Lord God almighty, Bless this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of The law of love, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with Epiphany water and incensed. The initials of the Magi are inscribed upon the doors with the blessed chalk. (The initials, K (or C or G), M, B, which can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat” which means “Christ bless this house”.)

Example: 20 + C + M + B + 17 

Another possible prayer to say during your Chalking:

May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Christ who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen.

God of heaven and earth, you revealed your Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Loving God, bless this household. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and abiding in your will. We ask this through Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Another version starts with Blessing the Chalk

Call. Our help is the Being of Christ:

Response. The maker of heaven and earth.

Call. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:

Response. From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray – Loving God, bless this chalk that it may be helpful to us; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Kaspar, 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.

Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows: 20 + C + M + B + 17 while saying: The three Wise Men, Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O Divine One, 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

“Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate & literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany & Christ’s blessing of our lives & home. With time the chalk will fade. As it does let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our heart & be manifest in our words & actions.

However you do it, it’s a rich tradition, a worthy invocation of Christ’s blessing, & a great conversation starter for your guests. For every person who asks about the inscription, there’s an opportunity to share this open mystery of the Magi & of the descent of Christ at the baptism.

Xox  ~Hazel Archer Ginsberg

FYI: 1st of all, I want to thank everyone who took on the task of being part of the Holy Nights Journey. Your encouragement, support & insights made the path light yet ever deeper. I feel so blessed. And I look forward to our co-creation thru-out the Seasonal Round, which always gives us opportunity for connection & growth.

Secondly – I will be taking a bit of a break from the daily offerings to work on some upcoming lectures, which i hope you will attend:

Mysteries of the Celtic Goddess

brigid-helena-nelson-reedBrigid by Helena Nelson Reed

Thursday February 9th 2017 -7 pm
at the Theosophical Society in America
1926 North Main Street
Wheaton, IL 60187

Invoking the Practical Alchemy of the Celtic Triple Goddess Brigid
To Purify, Awaken, & Galvanize Your Head, Heart, and Hands

Brigid’s festival is the 1st of the cross-quarter days in the wheel of the year, a time of spiritual re-dedication and initiation. Brigid invites us to forge and shape ourselves, as the tools of our own destiny. Come Renew Yourself. Together we will thaw the winter & rouse the mysteries growing within…

Hazel Archer Ginsberg is a Spiritual Midwife, and Trans-denominational Minister, working in an eclectic style that inspires connections – initiating us into the magic, waiting to be revealed, in the cycle of the seasons. Festivals Coordinator of the Rudolf Steiner Branch of the Anthroposophical Society. Lecturer, Promoter, Blogger, Poet & Performance Artist.  www.ReverseRitual.com.

$10 nonmembers   $5 members

Live Webcast

***

An evening Discourse &  Full day Workshop at

Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

Friday March 3rd 2017,  Potluck Social 5:30 pm  Lecture –7 pm – 9 pm

What is Anthroposophy?

A Hands-on Discourse with Hazel Archer-Ginsberg

What can the human being (anthropos) of today do to recognize our inherent wisdom (sophia) to access the source of spiritual knowledge, for our own inner development, and for the evolution of the earth and all of humanity?

What would it be like to support each other in community, as we strive to penetrate the mystery of our relationship with the spiritual world?

How does this ‘Spiritual Science’ built on the research of Rudolf Steiner, speak to the riddles of existence: our artistic needs, the truth of karma, the mystery of evil, life after death and so much more?

Come Explore this Modern Path of Initiation with:

Hazel Archer-Ginsberg – Festivals Coordinator & Council Member of the Chicago Rudolf Steiner Branch, and the Central Regional Council of the Anthroposophical Society. Founder of Reverse Ritual – Understanding Anthroposophy Through the Rhythms of the Year– Presenter, Poet, & Trans-denominational Minister.

Also:

 Saturday March 4th 2017 –

A Experiential Three Part Workshop* with Hazel Archer-Ginsberg

The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity

Some of the topics treated in this experiential workshop are: The nature of the brain, the development of speech, angelic beings, ancient language, Zarathustra, Buddha, & Christ.

‘The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity: Some Results of Spiritual-Scientific Research into Human History and Development’ consists of three sections. Each section was originally a lecture (6, 7, & 8 June 1911) but was subsequently reworked by Steiner & cast into the form of an essay.  It is available without a fee at Rudolf Steiner Archives 

Session #1 – 10 am – 12 noon:
• Introductions
• The divine wisdom working in the human being in the 1st three years of life.
• Through inner striving we can contact again and consciously build on this wisdom which is connected to the Christ impulse.
• Activity- Biography work: Our 1st conscious memory – a preview of the “I”.

Noon – 1:30 pm – Lunch

Session #2 – 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm:
• The childlike condition of humanity in ancient times, directed by higher spiritual beings.
• A look into the evolution of these guiding spirits –progressive as well as regressive –
• Revealing the necessity of the ‘two kinds of evil’.
• The importance of Spiritual Science to avoid error.
• Activity – Labyrinth Walk

3:30 pm – 4 pm – Break

Session #3 – 4 pm – 6 pm:
• A survey of the Post-Atlantean age, our present epoch.
• The Christ connection with the progressive spiritual beings
• Modern science as the work of the regressive spiritual beings
• A peek into the future
• Activity – The Golden Legend & The Rose Cross Mediation: An artistic rendering

*(Workshops can be taken as a whole or individually, details to follow)

Register here

Michael Fields W2493 County Rd ES
East Troy, WI 53120, USA

6 thoughts on “The Epiphany of ‘Chalking the Door’

  1. This helped me have a deep rich holding of the Holy Nights. Thank you for this offering and community!

    1. Yes, with all the craziness in the world around us, to be able to keep the space Holy within our hearts, striving during this sacred time, to connect to source, is a blessing for us all, including the spiritual beings that long to commune with us, & the earth herself…thanks for making this work a labor of love…xox

  2. Dearest Hazel,

    Your offering for Epiphany, “Chalking the Door”, was icing on a perfectly baked 13 layer cake. I found your Christmas Eve offering in regards to the path of human evolution as symbolized by the region of Pisces truly revelutory. I knew I’d be embarking on a journey of substance and committed myself there and then. I immediately posted your link to friends and acquaintances, near and far, broad enough in appeal for almost everyone. I entered important, historically notable, and soulful excerpts from your rich blog over these 13 nights into my Holy Nights journal. Given your eclectic background, something we have somewhat in common, you seemed to leave no stone unturned. I especially appreciated the art historical references and the images you included. Such a royal journey you laid out for us!

    In the end I was left, as no doubt others were, with the desire to (re)dedicate myself to a life of service in community and a deep and abiding gratefulness for the many gifts of the Spirit we’ve all been given over many epochs as well as in each moment with every breath we take.

    I’m so very grateful for your Holy Nights offering. This has been the most complete Holy Nights I’ve experienced. (My sincere thanks to your teachers and angels for their inspirations.)

    Many Blessings to you,
    Patricia

    1. Dearest Patricia – Your kind words fortify my soul.
      It is often difficult to know if what we need for our own spiritual growth can even begin to resonate with other striving souls,
      especially since the Holy Nights in particular can be so esoteric.
      So the offering of your response, with which you grace me with today, is a balm – true nourishment, which will flourish within me thru-out the year.
      My Angel bows to your Angel, encouraging us in our connection to spirit,
      spurring us on, as the journey continues – the ever evolving path to being human.
      May our communion grow too, as we circle round in the cycle of the seasons.
      Blessings for a fruitful New year.
      xox

  3. Thank you, Hazel, for all of the messages that you send out to us and for the wonderful Holy Night’s offerings. Felicia

    1. Greetings Dear Felicia – I really appreciate your feedback – Thanks for being part of the journey.
      xox

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