Chalking doors in an age of global migration

Dear colleagues,

Last week, as part of our celebrations of Epiphany in the college, we chalked the lintel of our entryway with the marking 20 + C + M + B + 20. This is a traditional act of house (or church or seminary) blessing that is particularly appropriate for the Epiphany season.The letter’s CMB are associated with the names the Christian tradition gives to the magi, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. But they are also traditionally associated with a Latin phrase, Christus maisonem benedicat: May Christ bless this house.

A house blessing is not simply a relic of a medieval superstition designed to keep evil spirits out. The purpose of blessing a house is similar to God’s blessing of Abraham in Genesis. God blessed Abraham so that through Abraham the world would also come to know God’s blessing (Genesis 12:2; 22:18). We bless houses so that they may be places of welcome, sanctuary, hospitality—blessing, in other words—to all those who enter them.

By happenstance, last Wednesday we also raised a glass to toast the successful immigration process of one of the members of our community who recently became a permanent resident of Canada after a long journey (in both geographic and metaphoric senses). For this member of our college community, Canada has been a place of welcome, sanctuary, and hospitality: a blessing.

It was not planned but I think there was something providential in how we linked immigration and blessing last Wednesday. Migration is one of the great facts of our time, and the pace and scale of migration is only likely to increase in coming years. This will serve as a great challenge to many societies and also a great opportunity. Moreover, there are people in every culture and community who feel alienated and cut off from those around them and are looking for a sense of connection and welcome. This is also a tremendous challenge to our societies and an opportunity. We increasingly live in a world in which many people are looking for welcome—and that welcome is in short supply.

In thinking about how we respond as Christians to these challenges and opportunities, the letters chalked above our door may be a helpful guide: may Christ bless this house. Through that blessing, may Christ make our communities places of welcome, sanctuary, and hospitality to all who are seeking it.

At last Friday’s Eucharist, we heard this line from the New Testament: “we love because [God] first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) In the context of our actions last week, I think we can modify this to say, “we bless because God first blessed us.” Then, remembering the blessing chalked above our door, modify it further to say, “we welcome because God first welcomed us.”

Faithfully yours,
Jesse Zink

This message was written by College Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.