The Epiphany House Blessing

Oh please, tell me I’m not the only one who didn’t know about this.  I mean, it’s not like it just slipped my mind in recent years or anything; I’ve been a practising Catholic all my life, and I’ve never once heard of it.  And no disrespect intended, but I can hardly imagine, when it’s so difficult to even find a priest available these days to give the Last Rites in time, that we are going to be able to persuade them to come to all of our homes and inscribe the Magis’ initials over our doors.  Well, thank goodness the father of the family can take the priest’s place in this situation.  Now all I have to do is find some blessed chalk.  And my husband.  Has anyone ever heard of blessed chalk?  Of course you have.  I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on. 

Edited to add:   Believe me, I’m all for the blessing of our homes, whether it is when we move in, once a year or for any occasion when the family desires it.  I’ve also been told to put little containers of holy water on the windowsills every January 1st, and I have done this in the past.  What took me by surprise was reading that apparently it is part of our Catholic tradition to bless our homes in the name of the Magis, and I really can’t imagine any Catholic priest or family wishing to do so.  If you google this Epiphany House Blessing and look at the information on the Catholic Culture site, for example, you’ll find the entire blessing.  It also states that the initials, C, M, B, (of the Magi) can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat which means Christ bless this house.  I think that’s more like it.  

23 thoughts on “The Epiphany House Blessing

  1. It sounds a bit familiar, lol. So many years ago, I’d wanted our apartment blessed, but never dared ask a priest. The husband of the time would’ve died laughing to hear anything of it and/or would’ve eaten the chalk. Uh, tell us more..🙂

  2. Now, I remember my dad blessing the house. Thought It was just an Irish tradition. Daddy used holy water though instead of Blessed Oils and made the initials over the front door with his hand dipped in the holy water.

  3. Thanks for posting that explanation because I thought it was some kind of joke…I was half expecting to see you in your super sleuth outfit or something…Anyway, I’ve never heard anything of the sort, so you’re not the only one.

  4. Carol, we can always bless our homes ourselves, or as a family, with holy water and special prayers anytime we want to, but it would be wonderful to have a blessing done by a priest, wouldn’t it.

    Cathy, I think it’s beautiful when a tradition such as blessing the home is handed down from one generation to the next, and I think either holy water or holy oils are just fine; it was just the Magi part that threw me off!

    Pia,🙂 after I went to bed I also thought that I should have put my detective picture up for this one!

  5. Well I can’t say I’ve heard of it but it sounds good to me – blessing our homes and those who dwell within, and those who visit all through the coming year – sounds a bit like it might have some Irish hospitality history attached.

  6. Yes, G. True.

    I’m thinking today of just how grateful I am that the Magi went all that way, no matter how many dangers it posed them both ways!, and paid Him homage, and brough Him gifts. There may’ve been 12 kings, but the 3 named are Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. One article said the 3 are now hung in Cologne where their relics are venerated. The marking of doorways was mentioned as a yearly occurence in Czechoslovakia.

    I wouldn’t know who to ask for holy chalk, but I know where to find some holy water.🙂

  7. I cantored on Sunday morning and noticed in the binder a hand-written note telling me to announce that before Mass there would be a blessing of the chalk. I turned to the accompanist and said, “Am I reading this right – does this say ‘blessing of chalk?’ What’s that? ” In my 32 years , I’d never heard of such a thing. In his 50+ years, he hadn’t either. So, you’re not the only one. ;o)

  8. Well, I guess I should just put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time I feel a bout of sarcasm coming on. I mean, I’ve always loved the story of the Magi, and loved that they honoured the baby Jesus in that way, but I just couldn’t imagine it being “Catholic” to name them in the house blessing (having always been told that they were astrologers, magicians, occultists, etc.) Yet here is Carol saying that their relics are venerated, and I just looked in the Catholic encyclopedia online and it says that in the martyrology they are actually saints! I don’t have a clue how that could be so when nobody actually knows who they were, but there you go! My humble apologies to the magi-saints (but I think I’m just going to stick with my holy water font anyway). 🙂

    Rebecca, welcome; that is very funny, and timely! I appreciate the support. 😉 I’m wondering now if anyone has ever marketed a Catholic trivia game.

  9. Well, I don’t know anything about the Infant of Prague, either–maybe that’ll come up, too! My mom had one always (she stole it), but what is the meaning of having it in one’s home? I suppose I should look it up. No, she didn’t steal it. Borrowed it..for a long time, from my father’s mother’s house when the will was not contested due to a certain father of mine’s month-long bender, so that everything would’ve gone to the 2nd husband’s family; apparently, there was an intervention by the Holy Spirit worked through a 4’11” woman to retrieve the blessed statue, and 2 holy pineapple beds. That’s really too much information, isn’t it?

    Oh golly, I didn’t think it sarcasm for a second, Gab, honestly. I’m sure none of us did!

  10. When I first read Epiphany House, I thought it was like “Madonna House”, meaning part of some kind of association or religious org..Then in the light of the explanation an comments I realized it was a blessing to be done on the Epiphany…Anyway, isn’t Sunday the feast of the Innocent Martyrs? So signing the doors is a remembrance of the Innocent Martyrs of Moses’ time and of the children killed after the Magi came to visit Jesus. Sort of all leads up to this great feast day, that reminds us that the great manifestations of the Lord have always been accompanied by the slaughter of the innocent. Considering the situation with abortion, child abuse, child soldiers, doesn’t that say something about the current times? Not to say the Lord is coming tomorrow (you never know,though) but…it seems that Satan has been getting ready well in advance.

  11. Carol, thank you, but I know in my heart it was sarcasm, and that is something I have to watch big-time. Notice the improvement already; I’m not going to say anything about pineapple beds or too much information! (oh gawd, you know I want to.)

    Pia, I can see why you thought that, and others may have also; I should have used a hyphen between house and blessing. You make really good points and associations here. You know, when I first read Cathy’s comment, I was visualizing her Dad dipping his hand in the holy water and making the initials over the front door, and it reminded me of the Israelite men dipping their hands in the lamb’s blood and making a sign over the lintel so God would bypass their homes. Everything is so interrelated, isn’t it, foreshadowed, and repeated.

  12. Of course, I am reminded of how, after finding “I love ___” written in pen ink on my best twin bed sheets via the hand of teen daughter, as well as penned on the wall (sometimes to be crossed out and filled with a new name), I handed her some chalk. Not blessed–it was rather threatening chalk.

    Seriously, tho’, yes– interrelated, and I sometimes wonder if these things come out (in whatever way!) because we need an extra blessing. Perhaps it is becoming wise or even crucial to bless our doorways, with blessed blood that looks like chalk or water.

  13. Just a brief note to pass along some history I just totally stumbled upon as I was about to close out a page’s click, click and click. Apparently, there are many depictions of the Magi in the Christian Catacombs of Rome; some are of two, of three and of four, though the gifts remain 3. And this is only from me, but maybe it’s the gifts we give the newborn king that are to be focused on when we recall the Magi – gold (soul), frankincense (prayer), and myrrh (faith). (Though I like the “Christus mansionem benedicat” very much!)

  14. That’s beautiful, C; our souls, prayers and faith offered to the Baby Jesus. It reminded me of what I posted last year for the Epiphany, from the revelations of St. Gertrude the Great, but for her the gifts actually represented Jesus and she offered them to God: myrrh, for the Body of Jesus Christ, incense, for the Soul of Jesus Christ, and gold for His Divinity. But I think you’re right; the focus can be on our offerings, and the variations could be infinite, very personal, and change from year to year…

  15. http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmas9.html

    Epiphany house blessing found on this Catholic site listed above. It is a very old tradition. Have fun reading all about it! No, it’s not a joke. By the way, you can either ask a proest to bless the chalk for you, or go to a parish that celebrates the Mass in the Extraordinary form A.K.A. the Latin Mass and I’m sure you’ll find it there very easily.
    The holy water on the feast of the Epiphany is blessed in a special way as well. That’s why it’s sometimes called Epiphany water.
    God Bless.

  16. Hello Rachel! I didn’t post anything on the Ephiphany this year, but I thank you for your comments and this information – they didn’t come through right away because anything with links goes automatically into moderated comments (or sometimes spam!)…

    I actually am beginning to like this custom more and more, and may very well search out some blessed chalk or holy oils to be prepared for next year. Thanks for visiting!

  17. Hey Rachel, Fisheaters is a Trad outfit. As is WDTPRS. I avoid both sites and recommend that others do so as well. Jesus did away with extremes, except for extreme love.

  18. Carol: I think you mean that we are all part of One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.We are brothers and sisters. The holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Novus Ordo form or the Extraordinary form are both “extreme love” and both valid. Jesus did not do away with the extraordinary form of the mass, nor the novus ordo. Get to know the “trads,” they are real people who love Jesus and live their lives trying as all of us to follow God’s will. Plain and simple. All of the Saints until 1962 were trads also. You might want to tread lightly when speaking about your own brothers and sisters. If anything, they deserve the extreme love you speak of as our Lord ordered.

  19. Well, let me know when you’ll be Trad-hugging the ones who call John Paul II an antichrist and call John XXIII foolish and call the Council — the current one — a work of the devil. That’s the unforgivable sin. It’d be a fine lesson for me to see if they will convert to Catholicism through your misplaced kindess. I grew up in the Latin church. It’s changed. Holy Spirit’s idea — can’t blame the libs forever.

  20. “C”:

    I do not think kindness is ever misplaced. Whether we are talking about hardened sinners,unfortunately misinformed and so called “trads,” or “libs” or a thousand different names and labels we can place on just about everyone, undeservedly of course. It’s our duty and one of the two greatest commandments. There was not a condition put on the duty of Charity due to our neighbor in the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself.” After all how would we be practicing any virtue at all if we loved everyone who agreed with us? Even in that small circle we surely don’t feel warm fuzzies for them all the time.

    Speaking against the Magesterium or the second vatican council especially uncharitably can be a sin (we don’t know their hearts), but it is not “the unforviable sin.” No, that is reserved for a special kind of sin we all pray for the mercy of God against, and that is final impenitence.

    Here in Matthew 12:35

    “The identification of the unforgivable sin as final impenitence—dying in a state of unrepentance—can be shown to go back at least to the time of Augustine. In fact, in the Summa Aquinas gives a nice little catalogue of Augustine’s passages dealing with the subject:

    ***”Augustine says . . . (Enchiridion lxxxiii) that ‘he who dies in a state of obstinacy is guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost,’ and (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi) that ‘impenitence is a sin against the Holy Ghost,’ and (De Serm. Dom. in Monte xxii), that ‘to resist fraternal goodness with the brands of envy is to sin against the Holy Ghost,’ and in his book De unico Baptismo (De Bap. contra Donat. vi, 35) he says that ‘a man who spurns the truth, is either envious of his brethren to whom the truth is revealed, or ungrateful to God, by Whose inspiration the Church is taught,’ and therefore, seemingly, sins against the Holy Ghost” (ST 2b:14:2, Sed Contra).***

    Also, I do belong to a parish that is run (for lack of a better term) by the FSSP. They are in full communion with the Church, just like for example our Byzantine brothers and sisters among other rites in union with the Church. Also, the People who attend Latin Mass services and Novus Ordo services are in the same rite, the Latin Rite. Go figure.

    I suppose you are right about one thing though, that It’d be a “fine lesson for me to see if they will convert to Catholicism through your misplaced kindess.” Leaving out the misplaced part of course.

    I’d be more surprised than anyone, considering I’ve got a short fuse and patience is not a well practiced virtue for me.

    The Second Vatican Council was not an infallible teaching. A person is not speaking against the Holy Spirit if they do not agree with the changes in the Church. Although, they could stand to tread lightly and be very charitable in the process.
    As for trad-hugging, I’ll have to admit, I cannot give that up. Someone needs a hug I’ll give it, Lord have mercy if I ask to see their credentials first.

    Pray for me, as I will pray for you.

  21. “Let us pray for one another”? That’s the Catholic kiss of death! lol It’s ok, because this is Gab’s blog and I’ve felt badly for risking controversial comments here. Gab works hard to make and keep this a holily neutral, loving, welcoming ground for all — something we all need and appreciate for sure. Know that I’ve reactivated my own blog, though, if you think we can shed further light for one another.

  22. Well, I was probably going to let you go a couple more rounds… 🙂 I’m not really holily neutral, but I think I’ve expressed myself on this subject elsewhere on the blog, and I really am aiming at unity, unity, unity now. I know your heart, Carol, and I get the strong impression that you, Rachel, are a kindred-spirit. We’re allowed to have differences of opinion…and they will always be allowed here if they are expressed with patience and respect. (and that added touch of humour is always welcome, as are the quiet grins I can picture on peoples’ faces when they come across someone they can indulge in a little intelligent repartee with).

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