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The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (“Chalking the Door”)
At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.
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We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":
Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King's son;
That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice.
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.
He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace
till the moon shall be no more.
He shall rule from sea to sea, *
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
His foes shall bow down before him, *
and his enemies lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.
All kings shall bow down before him, *
and all the nations do him service.
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
and dear shall their blood be in his sight.
Long may he live!
and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
may prayer be made for him always,
and may they bless him all the day long.
May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
growing thick even on the hilltops; *
may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
and its grain like grass upon the earth.
May his Name remain for ever
and be established as long as the sun endures; *
may all the nations bless themselves in him
and call him blessed.
Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
who alone does wondrous deeds!
And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:
Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.
“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)
“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)
“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)
C M B
“Throughout the coming year ...”
20 C M B
“... and the many years to come.”
20 C M B 15
“In the name of the Father ...”
20 + C M B 15
“and of the Son ...”
20 + C + M B 15
“... and of the Holy Spirit.”
20 + C + M + B 15
Everyone responds: “Amen.”
20 + C + M + B + 15
The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.
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For those who require "the short form," there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Rensselaer, New York. On those nights when the weather is particularly inclement, one can simply read from the Gospel of John while inscribing over the door ...
In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)
and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)
and the Word was God. (inscribe +)
He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)
All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)
and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)
And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)
and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)
and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)
the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)
full of grace and truth. (inscribe 5)
… then with the Holy Water, making the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” and calling it a night.
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Meanwhile, the day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, such as this one last year at this time in Madrid, Spain.
Although we know the "kings" were not actually royalty at all, but scholars in astronomy and other sciences who came from Persia, tradition has associated Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar (their names as rendered in the apocryphal gospel accounts) as representing the Orient, Arabia, and Africa, the three great land masses of the known world in the first millennium.
As with the eve of Saint Nicholas Day in parts of western Europe, children in the Hispanic world are known to leave their shoes out and receive candy and other treats by the next morning. In Spain, children traditionally received presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, although recent years have seen both Christmas and Epiphany as a time for gift-giving.
I just love parades.