Yesterday, the Feast of the Epiphany, I did something I recall doing only one other time, back when our eldest daughter was 9 years old: I wrote with chalk above my doorway. I was going to do this bit of religious graffiti with crayon since we didn’t have chalk in the house, but my ever-sporting husband said, “Crayon won’t come off.” Well, yeah, there’s that.
Still, since this was part of my Year of Faith journey, I needed to be as accurate with this endeavor as possible. So off I set off to Office Max, where a sales clerk directed me to an aisle with millions of paperclips and four boxes of chalk. I picked the box of colored because it seemed more cheerful, even though I’m pretty certain the official practice would be to use white.
Then I went home, took one of our bar stools out onto the front porch, said a prayer that had been provided by the pastor of one of the parishes we attend (Oh! Attending multiple parishes! Another blog post awaits!), hoisted my hike-sore body onto the stool and did this with a piece of yellow chalk:
It looked good, but there was a problem. While this might serve well the purpose of evangelization during the YOF (more on that below), it wouldn’t help me remember the YOF because we usually come into our house through the garage. So I dragged the bar stool into the garage, got a piece of purple chalk and repeated the prayer (which is very much like this one), climbed on the stool, and wrote this:
(One must ignore both my poor printing and the license plate; we have all our old plates hung around the door inside our garage. There’s no explanation for why my printing resembles that of a first-grade child.)
This practice of marking your home’s doorways with what appears to be secret code recalls when the three Magi – tradition holds that their names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar – followed the Star of Bethlehem to a baby born in a manger. C, M, and B are also an abbreviation of the Latin prayer Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, “May Christ bless this dwelling.” The 20 and 13 are the year (2013) and the crosses between the letters represent either Jesus or his protection of all who enter the home, depending on which religious reference you check.
The chalk I used should have been blessed and/or holy water sprinkled on the door, but the tiny bottle I have that used to be full of holy water has been empty for a year, awaiting me to remember to bring into Mass for refilling. Being the flawed, forgetful human that I am, the bottle has remained forgotten, never daring to cross the threshold of my parish. Regardless, I think my prayer and intention sufficed for holiness, even though there may be some Catholics out there who might claim it didn’t. (I’ve been accused of Not Catholic Enough before, and it used to really bother me. Now, it is simply tiresome.)
Following this tradition today was one way I can mark the YOF by paying more attention to my relationship with God, and also helps with what the Pope has called Catholics to do this year: Evangelize. Lord knows – trust me on this, I’m quite confident He does – the word “evangelization” has a negative connotation in a world of screaming Brother Jeds and the hateful-acting Westboro Baptist Church. But the behaviors of those people are not what evangelization means from a Catholic standpoint nor, I bet, from the standpoint of most mainstream Christian denominations.
Evangelization is not about preaching hellfire and damnation and scaring people into something that parades as belief but is really fear. Instead, it is about being well-informed enough about your own faith that, should someone ask a question about it, you have an answer. Ergo, if someone sees 20 C+M+B 13 scrawled over my doorway, he or she might say, “Hey, what’s up with that?” and I’d be presented with the opportunity to share, briefly, my faith and what that writing above my doorway means for me in the YOF. Maybe that would lead to more questions; maybe not. But it is surely easier than what some of my Orthodox brethren did today.