Have You Ever Wondered Why We Bless Houses?
Recently, I was at a friend’s house and I noticed a piece of art in their living room that said, “Sorry about the mess, but we live here!” I chuckled at the sign, and began to reflect on the gift of feeling “at home.” Home, at its healthiest, is a place where we can let down our guard, be real, be vulnerable, not have to pretend, and not have to put on airs. And if we are going to be real and vulnerable and honest and let our guard down, that will necessarily entail some messiness! From the perspective of our faith, however, that mess is holy! After all, this Christmas season is a lengthy celebration of God choosing to get messy by becoming one of us! God chose to be born (a messy but beautiful experience), to live of live of total self-gift, and to die a very messy death as a result of that self-gift. And it was all driven by love and a desire to be near us!
Homes, as places of realness, honesty, and vulnerability, are messy and holy places, which is why Christians have made it a practice to bless homes. While homes can be blessed any time of year, there has been a historical emphasis on blessing homes on or around the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).
Epiphany is the annual celebration commemorating the arrival of the three magi to worship the baby Jesus. Matthew 2:11 says, “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” In the spirit of the wise men’s blessing of Mary and Joseph’s home, we often celebrate Epiphany by asking God’s blessing on our home and on those who live in or visit our home. A house blessing is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.
The blessing can be elaborate or simple, depending on your taste. A simple and traditional way of blessing a home is to use chalk above the home’s entrance and write +20 C M B 18 +. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2018 is the year. After putting chalk on the entrance of the house, the family can pray the following prayer:
Visit this home, O LORD, with the gladness of your presence. Bless those who live here and visit here with your grace, and grant that they may grow in love and forgiveness. Guard and guide them — and preserve them in peace. Amen.
St. Luke’s has blessing bags with chalk and prayers of blessing for you to say at your home. Feel free to develop your own prayers or liturgy as well! However you are comfortable, we invite you to take part in this ancient and beautiful tradition that reminds us of the connection between our faith and our everyday, real, messy, but holy lives!
A blessed Epiphany to you all!