In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear about eastern magi following a new star, sign of the birth of a great king, to Jerusalem. There they meet King Herod, a subtle and evil man, jealous of any rival to his power. Herod questions them closely and is told they had first seen the star two years ago. He sends them on to Bethlehem but asked they return and tell him where the king might be so that he, too, might worship.
Warned by a dream, the magi avoid Herod on their route home, and so Herod sends his soldiers to Bethlehem where they kill every male child age two and younger. We remember these first, albeit unwilling, martyrs of Christianity on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We remember the magi, who honored Christ without knowing exactly who he was, on the Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Almighty God coming to earth.
By the time the magi arrived, Mary and Joseph have found better accommodations than a cattle shed, and so the magi find Jesus in a house.
We remember this encounter of human wisdom and divine grace with the traditional Blessing of the House. The Sisters sing hymns and pray; the prioress incenses the gathered Community and the house, and then a Sister marks the lintel of the door with “20 + C + M + B + 17”, where the current year frames the letters C, M, and B, separated by crosses. These recall the traditional names of the magi – Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar – and also the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.”
May God bless your house this year, and may it be a haven of peace and blessing for all who enter.