You may have seen it before over the doorway of a Catholic friend: 20+C+M+B+22 chalked on the lintel.
This means that your friend’s house has been blessed with a very special, very old custom. The custom echoes the Passover, wherein the Jewish people would sprinkle lamb’s blood over their doorways as an invocation of God’s blessing for their household.
Blessed chalk is now used to mark the doorways for this Catholic blessing.
It’s a tradition that began in Eastern Europe. After Epiphany, the village priest went to every home in his parish with specially-blessed Epiphany water and chalk. Upon entering the home, he prayed special prayers and blessed every room in the house.
From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts…
Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law…
After this the numbers of the year, enclosing the initials of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) are written with the blessed chalk over the door. The Magi’s initials also stand for a Latin house blessing: Christus mansionem benedicat (May Christ bless this house).
Now that parishes have increased in size and priests are no longer able to visit every home, the head of the household is permitted to perform a basic Epiphany house blessing himself. Parishes often provide the materials needed, including Epiphany water—holy water specially blessed with a powerful blessing for this feast day. Here at The Catholic Company, we offer a beautiful personalized Epiphany Holy Water Bottle, inscribed with your family name and the star that guided the Wise Men. Fill it at your parish and use it for your Epiphany Blessing—and anytime throughout the year to bless yourself and your family! Get yours today at The Catholic Company!