The chalk is blessed by the priest and uses a prayer that asks God for good health and safety in the New Year.
Each year on the feast of Epiphany, chalk is blessed by priests around the world and then distributed to the parish. Parishioners are instructed to mark their doorposts in an action clearly inspired by the book of Exodus.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt … “take some of the blood [of the lamb], and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it … The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (cf. Exodus 12:1-13)
It is an ancient tradition that calls upon God’s blessing and protection.
Traditionally a priest blesses chalk on the Feast of the Epiphany by saying the following prayer (from the Roman Ritual):
Bless, + O Lord God, this creature, chalk, and let it be a help to mankind. Grant that those who will use it with faith in your most holy name, and with it inscribe on the doors of their homes the names of your saints, Casper, Melchior, and Baltassar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health in body and protection of soul; through Christ our Lord.
Many families would take this seriously and prayed the blessing with faith, trusting that God would spare them diseases, plagues and other illnesses.
This is reflected in the prayer typically said by the head of the household when marking the doors with chalk.
Bless, + O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.
While there is no “guarantee” that a home marked with Epiphany chalk will be protected from all illnesses, it does remind us that God is the giver of all gifts and he can lead us into good health.
The spiritual needs of the family should always be in the forefront of our mind, knowing that God will lead us through every dark valley.
Even if we aren’t spared a deadly disease, God’s blessing will reign in our house and our soul will be at peace with God.