The origins of blessing homes at Epiphany is difficult to pinpoint but it is associated with the coming of the Wiseman and the blessings they received as well as the blessings they left when they visited the home of  Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child.

This tradition is an opportunity to gather with friends and family in the New Year and to lift up the ministry of hospitality as we ask God to bless our homes to be places of welcome and witness to God’s grace.

An old Eastern European tradition is to write the first letter of the names of the three Wiseman with the year in chalk above the doorway.  Of course, the magi are not named or numbered in scripture, but tradition has associated each of the magi with the gifts brought – gold, frankincense, and myrrh and named them Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.  It just so happens that those three letters also stand for an ancient Latin blessing, “Christe mansionem benedica,” which means, “Christ, bless this house.”

 Writing words to remind us of God’s blessings on the doors of our homes actually goes back to the Shema in Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart … and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 9)



This can be a family event and anyone can do the blessing, but it might also be a fun way for a pastor to make home visits by offering to do this blessing for church families.
 Chalk is made from the earth.  It will fade but the words remain in our hearts and minds.
Rituals like these help to remind us of God’s activity in the world and in our lives beyond the church doors on Sunday morning.
You can find a service of  Home Blessing at SundaysandSeasons or The Northeastern Iowa Synod Home Life Network offers a suggested blessing in their January 2013 newsletter, Faith@Home.
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Interesting. I didn't know the west did house blessings! I also didn't know about the connection to the wise men.

    The Orthodox Church also does house blesses at Theophany (Epiphany). Our celebration isn't about the wise men, though. Instead, it's about the baptism of Christ.

    The idea is that when Christ was baptized, he sanctified the waters (because he was sinless). This, of course, shows that the Incarnation of Christ renews, or re-creates, the entire cosmos…it isn't just about the salvation of humans.

    Because Christ sanctifies the waters, we bless water at Theophany (including outdoor bodies of water), and then bless our homes with that Holy Water to participate in the cosmic redemption found only through Christ.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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