Today’s Word: ’20+C+M+B+20’ as in… Chalking.
We’re still in the Epiphany season. It’s okay if that’s new news. It hasn’t been on my front burner either. Not like Advent and Christmas were front and center. Much of our culture got a running start on Thanksgiving, jumped right over Advent into Christmas, then briefly paused on New Year’s Eve, and is now leaning heavily into Valentine’s Day. After the chocolate is gone, it’s on to March Madness.
Epiphany began on January 6 and stretches into the gray days of mid-winter, right up to February 23, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. But again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
There is an ancient practice that is directly linked to Epiphany called “Chalking.” It seems to be making a bit of a resurgence, or at least I’m starting to notice it more; kind of like when you start noticing multiples of things after seeing just one, like when you notice red cars, or motorcycles, or perhaps even other guys wearing beautiful Carhartt shirts. “Chalking” begins either on the eve of Epiphany, January 5, or on the Day of Epiphany, January 6, when Christ followers around the world mark their door frames with this pattern: “20+C+M+B+20.”
Let’s break that down a bit. The ‘20’ on both ends refers to the calendar year. The crosses points to Christ. The three letters refer to the initials of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, who visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus, as well as the abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ Bless this house.” And all of this, of course, recalls the Passover in Exodus 12 where the Israelites marked the door frames of their houses.
So why do this? It’s a home blessing that we share with those who visit. As hospitality was shown to the Magi, we’re called to show extravagant hospitality to all people as we invite the presence of God into wherever we live work and play.
What an Epiphany!