Got Your Chalk Ready?

Don’t forget to bless your home tomorrow. Essential ingredient: let your kids write on the wall. Which version will you tell your children:

Caspar + Melchior + Balthasar?

Christus Mansionem Benedicat?

If you need a little extra time to dig out the chalk, there’s always “official” Epiphany on Tuesday. That day is our young miss’s baptismal anniversary. That date is always big for our domestic church.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Got Your Chalk Ready?

  1. Liam says:

    I thought the point of the symbol is that it was both versions, together, not either/or.

  2. Todd says:

    I agree. I ran into a parishioner the other day who thought it had changed from names to the Latin–don’t know how many Catholics don’t know it’s both.

  3. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    Glad to see that the tradition of house blessing is still being promoted. It is, I was told, a custom that is German in origin.
    My own initial acquaintance with the tradition goes back to my time in the minor seminary in the 1960′s when C.M.B., we were told by some venerable German SVD’s in the community, meant Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Does anyone know when that was changed (???) to ‘Christus Mansionem Benedicat’? Sadly(???) the newest edition of our own Ceremonial SVD (2009) only gives the latter formula.
    Just blessing one door seems to be short changing things, back then in the 1960′s, all the doors of all the buildings were blessed. Along with the celebrant for the day, three or four other priests with accompanying acolytes were also drafted in. The workshops, the printing press and the farm buildings were blessed after breakfast, and apart from the farm, work didn’t begin until the blessing was completed; the old German brothers, of whom there were around a dozen in the community, insisted on it being done that way, in accord with the tradition handed down from the Founder – St Arnold Janssen.
    When I was assigned to a parish in the far north of Japan’s main island in 1982, an area where until the late 1970′s the majority of pastors were veteran German SVD’s, house blessings were an integral part of the parish schedule. Beginning on January 4th we visited two or three houses a day, everyday except Sunday, till January 15th, the ‘official’ end of New Year celebrations in Japan. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet the whole families, including sometimes grandfather and grandmother or spouses who were not Christians. Evening visits had their own ‘perils’ since you were expected to join the men of the house for a few drinks, and discussions late into the night. Warm sake (Japanese rice wine) slips down wonderfully on a cold evening when there is up to a metre or so of snow outside, and you have to remind yourself frequently that you have Mass the following morning at 6:30 in the local convent. That said, more than one journey to Baptism for an unbaptized spouse began during such visits.
    For those interested, let me add the formula and explanation given in the current Ceremonial SVD:

    BLESSING OF THE HOUSE ON EPIPHANY
    The blessing of a house on the solemnity of the Epiphany (or on another day close to the solemnity) has been a custom in some places in the Church and in the Society.
    The brief rite for the blessing of a house in the Society may be added to Evening Prayer II for the solemnity. This rite also provides the opportunity for the blessing of homes and families in parish settings.
    The purpose is to call God’s blessing upon all who live in the house as well as all who might spend time as guests within it.

    The rite is inserted after the intercessions of Evening Prayer II of Epiphany, before the final prayer.
    In place of the final intercession (for the deceased) the two following intercessions may be substituted:

    1.King of all families, bless our community
    and all who dwell within this house,

    — that we may recognize your presence
    and like the Magi praise your holy name.

    2.King of kindness and mercy,
    make our house a place of unity and peace,

    — that all who live or visit here
    may find your love and joy in our midst.

    The celebrant and the other liturgical ministers then process to the entrance of the church or main entrance of the house. All sing appropriate Christmas or Epiphany songs. If the distance is short, a fitting acclamation may be sung in place of the songs. The following acclamation is an example of such a text:

    Son of God, Lord of heaven and earth,
    you became flesh and dwelt among us.
    With joy we call upon your name.
    You are the king of our hearts and our home.

    If the blessing is to take place at the church door, the faithful present remain in their places but face the door as the celebrant continues with the blessing:

    C: Christ, incarnate Divine Word,
    you are the way, the truth, and the light.
    A: You are the door that leads to the Father.
    C: Lord, bless us, as you did the Magi,
    with the gift of your divine presence.
    Bless this house and watch over it
    that all who dwell here
    may find safety, peace and joy
    and so one day arrive at their eternal home
    where you live with the Father and the Spirit
    for ever and ever.
    A: Amen.

    Then, in silence, the celebrant marks the door saying “May Christ bless this house” (“Christus mansionem benedicat”). Using chalk he marks the door with three crosses, the letters C M B, and the year, in this manner:

    20 C † M † B __

    Remaining at the church door and facing the people, the celebrant invites all to join in the Lord’s Prayer:

    C: Let us make our prayer of praise complete
    by singing the Lord’s prayer:

    The final prayer is added from the solemnity (without “Let us pray”):

    Father of light, unchanging God,
    today you reveal to people of faith
    the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh.
    Your light is strong,
    your love is near;
    draw us beyond the limits
    which this world imposes,
    to the life where your Spirit
    makes all life complete.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.
    A: Amen.

    After the blessing and dismissal, the celebrant and the liturgical ministers bow toward the altar and depart.

    Following on from our General Chapter in 2000 there has been a strong push, which I personally welcome, to revive some traditional SVD community rituals and prayers that had fallen into disuse. Many such rituals and prayers, revived, revised or adapted,as needs be, often contain very rich theologies of mission that are even more valid today, and often show us how prescient was our Founder and the founding generation. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, some may appear in the public domain and help to strengthen the faith life of the wider community. Here in Japan our first task will be to translate them into Japanese; not an easy task, but well worth the effort.

  4. Tyler says:

    Thank you for the reminder! I’m in RCIA, hoping to come into the Church this Easter Vigil, and I’m learning to love and value these rituals for incorporating the Church and faith into everyday life.

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