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When our children were young, they loved using chalk to draw pretend, circuitous “routes” on which to ride their bikes. They drew hopscotch courts on which to toss their “potsies.” And when they made up stories, they drew all kinds of identifiable and unidentifiable images and designs–just for the creative fun of it!
…And so they often found sidewalk chalk among their stocking stuffers…
Yes! chalk is (was?) for child’s play.
Years ago, chalk was for teacher-play, too:).
This week I’m reminded that chalk still holds a special significance in family Christmas Season/New Year faith devotions.
In that context, chalk (often blessed white chalk) is used to “mark” a house–and a family!–as belonging to Christ.
Although there is no one absolutely definitive way that the marking must be done, the usual components of the notation are these:
- Chalk notation is made above the inside doorway.
- All 4 digits of the year are written, either as a unit, or divided into 2 and 2, with the following intervening letters.
- The letters C, B, and M are written. They stand for either/both the Magi or the Latin expression that translates “Christ bless this house.”
- The letters are connected with + symbols that are read as crosses or as the words “and” or “plus.”
- One or two + symbols at the start/and stop of the notation stand for the Cross of Christ.
In some parishes, the priest comes to bless the house and makes the chalk inscription that lasts (faded) till the next year’s blessing. When a priest is not available, the husband-father of the house, as the head of the domestic church, does the house blessing/chalk notation.
No matter how the notation is done (1 line; 2 lines; “+2016 + C+B+M” or “20 C+B=M 16,” or any other variation), the important thing is to proclaim the house and the family as the Lord’s.
Although such a tradition was not part of my family’s faith formation, it was part of my husband’s. And although, in the past–regrettably– we did not adopt the practice for our house, this year being the Mercy Jubilee, it seemed like time to establish the traditional devotion.
So that’s what we did yesterday! (Another part of the tradition is to bless the house/chalk the doorway on Epiphany or “Little Christmas.” …Although the blessing can be done any time!)
Serious business marking our house for Christ, and yet, it occurs to me that as Our Heavenly Father watches us writing symbols, numbers, and letters above our doors, He sees holy child’s play in His Eyes. And He delights in honoring His children’s simple act of faith, hope, and love–
What do you think? Will you use chalk to mark–to proclaim–to yourself and others that you and your home belong to Christ?
p.s. Holy reason or not, the child in me still likes–correction: loves— playing with chalk!