There is a custom associated with New Year and Epiphany of asking for God’s Blessing on one’s home.
Home blessing is a popular custom in many faiths and it is particularly associated with moving into a new home. In Hinduism, for example, a newly built home is always blessed before people first move in. Blessing a home is increasingly popular in Christianity, usually when people move. It is often accompanied with prayers and party-like refreshments. It is about Welcome and new beginnings. In some traditions, holy water, is sprinkled in each room and especially at the entrances.
NEW YEAR & EPIPHANY.
There is also an annual blessing of homes at this time of year. It is a particular custom at Epiphany time and is linked with celebrating the visit of the three Wise Men to the infant (or baby) Jesus when they paid him homage as God’s Son and gave him gifts with significant meanings. Gold for Kingship, Frankincense for Divinity and Myrrh for Sacrifice and Suffering.
The visit itself has its own significance. The Wise Men travelled a great distance and whilst their homage and gifts were important, so was their coming into the home. They were received by the Holy Family, with, I suspect, a mixture of perplexity and wonderment. Being Jewish they also opened the doors of their hearts following the example of Abraham and the angelic visitors in Genesis 18.
Hospitality is something that involves generosity of spirit towards each other. In Christianity it received a particular meaning in the teachings of St. Benedict. In his ‘Rule’ (how the brothers and sisters should live) he said it was very important to welcome visitors to the monastery with openness and love. The reason, he said, was because we are to see Christ in each other and therefore we must receive each person as if they are Jesus.
This is an echo of Hebrews 13:1f in which the writer of the Epistle encourages mutual love to continue among us. Then these words:
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
So the blessing of homes at New Year/Epiphany is bound up with asking for a blessing on our home, on ourselves and on all who will visit us in the coming year. It is also a re-dedication of ourselves in thanksgiving to God for the loving blessing He pours upon us.
The link with the visit of the Wise Men is maintained with a symbol we chalk on or near the lintel of our homes. In some churches, chalk is blessed by a minister/priest and is then used to mark the entrance of the house with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this home.” The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+22. The year 2022 encloses the initials CMB which are each united by the sign of our Lord’s Cross.
A short service of prayer to ask God’s blessing on the home and on all who live, work with and visit them completes the blessing. In this way, we invite Jesus to be a “guest” in our home, in whatever guise He comes, a listener to each conversation, a guide for troubled times, and a blessing in times of thanksgiving.
Throughout each year I have found, also, that casual visitors, delivery people and occasional callers have puzzled over the meaning and this has led to some interesting conversations, so it becomes a tiny moment of evangelism.
I’ve heard it called a bit of Holy graffiti !
Here are two prayers of blessing
Lord God of Heaven and Earth,
who has revealed you only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star:
Bless this house and all who inhabit it and upon all who visit us.
Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
by your heavenly star,
you guided those who were wise
to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
May your blessing come to rest on our home and all of us.
Make our lives wise with your wisdom,
true to your teaching,
and enlivened by your love.
May your Word made flesh
make his home among us.
If you can’t get hold of blessed chalk you can say this little prayer yourself:
Lord God, please bless this chalk,
as we set it aside to mark the symbol of blessing
and hospitality over our home.
So may we become marks of your loving presence in the world
for others to see.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our friend and brother,
Who is truly the mark of your joy and salvation over our world.