Fr. Wayne McNamara, priest of Christ the King Anglican Church, wrote the following introduction to the “Chalking of the Doors” tradition. A booklet along with blessed chalk is handed out to the members of our congregation every year before Epiphany.
The chalking of the Door is typically done on January 6th on the Feast of the Epiphany and celebrates the revealing of Christ to the world in three events: The visit of the Magi when Jesus is revealed to the Gentles, the baptism of Christ by John, and the changing of water to wine at the Cana wedding. God revealed Himself to us and dwells with us and we desire the life in our homes to reveal Christ to others. This short liturgy is a way of yearly marking our homes, usually at the front or main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols to intentionally set our homes apart as places of Christian hospitality, as safe and peaceful outposts of the Kingdom of God in the world, as habitations of healing and rest. We again invite God’s presence into our homes and ask His blessing upon all those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year.
Chalk is used in this service as an ordinary substance of the earth, dust put to holy use. It reminds us that we are of the dust of the ground, the most ordinary of substances, and yet are fashioned as holy beings for most holy purposes. Chalk will not permanently mark the dwelling. Weather will likely cause the marking to fade over time, but each time we view it upon entering our homes we will remember the reason for it and rededicate ourselves to that purpose. Typically the markings are intended to remain at least until the Feast of Pentecost but need not be removed at all. Another year passes and a new Epiphany arrives, and will again dedicate ourselves to be Lights of the World.
Each year, the inscription is the new year separated by C+M+B. For instance, in 2016, the inscription will be 20+C+M+B+16.
Church tradition names three of the Magi— Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar— and on Epiphany we celebrate these three saints and their gift-bringing. The numbers of the year are the bookends of the inscription.
“C M B” above the door, also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for “Christ, this house Bless.”