Have you ever noticed a mysterious series of letters and numbers which looked like a math equation, inscribed in chalk over a doorway (or at your church, or at the home of a friend) and wondered “What is that?” But you didn’t ask, so you left and wondered what the chalk was all about? If so, you’re not alone! If you’re curious, read on.

Some Christians “chalk the door” (literally ‘write on or above the entrance of their home in chalk) with a particular inscription of specific numbers/letters. For example, this year, the inscription would be: 20 + C + M + B + 21. But what does that all mean? Here’s a breakdown:

The letters can either mean
1. The initials of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) who came to visit the baby Jesus
2. An abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat which means “May Christ bless this house.”

The “plus” “+” signs:
– the Cross of Jesus

The numbers
… the “20” at the beginning and the “21” at the end represent this year: 2021
Those numbers change every year, so next year you would mark 20 + C + M + B + 22.

“Chalking of the door” is a centuries-old practice throughout many parts of the world and can be a wonderful family activity and spiritual practice, invoking the Creator’s blessing on all who live/work/visit the home. In some respect, it is similar to what Jewish people have done for centuries when they attach a mezuzah to the front door/doorpost in response to a mitzvah (a commandment) believing there to be protection for those who pass through the door.

As for ‘when’ to do the “chalking of the door” – some do it on New Year’s Day; some do it on Twelfth Night; some do it on Epiphany (January 6th); and some do it on a day between New Year’s Day and Epiphany.

In case you would like to do it, am sharing this now, so you can consider the possibility, get some chalk and a board (even cardboard would do), write the inscription, let others in the home know about it so they can be there (remembering we’re in a pandemic so wearing a mask, social distancing, and only those who share the home with you, this year), gather a hammer and nails/tacks to put the inscription on/over the door, and then consider when you’ll do the actual “Chalking of the Door.”

By the way, the actual date the “Chalking of the Door”
isn’t the important thing.
Being intentional, making the time to invite and welcome God’s presence,

What’s involved? It can be very formal – an ordained person can offer a ritual of prayers and burning of incense or sprinkling of holy water). It can be done very simply by someone who lives in the home (or shared by people living in the home) … writing the inscription on or above the door … offering a short prayer (suggestion below). There is no formal way of “chalking the door.” It’s a custom we make our own so – “do your own thing.”

A “chalking of the door” prayer suggestion (or use your own words: “Holy One, (I/we) ask your blessing on this entrance and home, and upon all who live here (work here; visit here). May they may be blessed in ways that will be nourishing to their body, mind and spirit. May peace dwell in this home. May laughter and joy be experienced. May kindness, patience, thoughtfulness, and respect be present in conversations and actions. And may the Creator (Christ, the Holy One, All That Is Good) be present in the waking and sleeping of all who dwell herein. Amen.”

May this little explanation of “Chalking of the Door” be a blessing to all who read it and decide to “chalk the door” this year.

As with all “Soulistry” reflections/blog postings, you are welcome to share this or any Soulistry reflection with accreditation.

{Appreciation to Betty and Duncan Locke for permission to use Betty’s photo of their new front door. The “formula” was not on the door at photo time – it was added in thanks to “Watermark Pro.” And appreciation to Christine Sine for sharing her adaptation of the Celtic Prayer blessing.}

© June Maffin
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