20+C+M+B+22 : A blog on Epiphany from Canon Val
Christus Mansionem Benedicat Christ bless this house
In 1908, whilst the Cathedral was still being built a party of 70 people came to Liverpool from Cologne in order to study the work of the Cathedral. This is the earliest record of a partnership between the two cities which continues right up to 2022. Liverpool – Cologne was one of the first city twinning after the Second World War. The churches of the two cities revived the link in the 1990’s when a group of clergy and lay people came from Cologne to study the “Faith in the City report”. Since then, there has been regular contact and friendships made with clergy and lay people from different traditions travelling between the two cities continue. This is an Ecumenical partnership and The Deans of both Cathedrals in Liverpool have enjoyed exchange visits together with support from the Bishop of Liverpool, the Archbishop of Liverpool and Free Church Leaders. In 2021 the partnership met online to discuss common needs and problems.
In 2004 under the leadership of Dean Rupert Hoare a group from our partner city travelled to Liverpool bringing representatives of the churches in Cologne. The visit was to celebrate the partnership and the start of the Centenary celebrations for Liverpool Cathedral. The visit took place at Epiphany which is a very special time of celebration for the Dom in Cologne when the shrine of the Three Kings is opened. Every January 6, Epiphany, at Cologne Cathedral members of the public are allowed to process alongside the ossuary (bone box) and pay their respects. The visitors shared the story of the traditions and customs associated with the Three Kings in Germany. Services were held in the Cathedrals at either end of Hope Street and hundreds of schoolchildren attended dressed as Kings and Star Carriers. In the Anglican Cathedral, English and German Kings processed through the building to share the message of The Three Kings and the Star singers.
The blessing from Cologne Cathedral 20*C+M+B*04 was inscribed on the West walls of the Cathedral. In Cologne at Epiphany some 500,000 young people dress as the three biblical kings and the Sternsinger (star singers) are sent out from their local churches and go from house to house in the first days of January singing and collecting for a specified charity. Above the front door of the houses which receive them, these boys and girls write the blessing in chalk which has been blessed in the church:
20 + C + M + B + 22
The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus in His first home. They also abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “22” at the end mark the year. The inscription asks for Christ to bless those homes which have been marked and that He stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.
The chalking of the doors of a home encourages Christians to dedicate their life at home to God and to others. Seeing the symbols over our doors can help to remind us, while passing in and out on our daily routines, that our homes and all those who dwell there belong to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of the welcome the Magi gave to Jesus. The symbols remain over the door until the next year’s visit, or they are removed by the elements. We should try to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes to visit us!
Our friends from Cologne donated the Ecumenical star which we hang each year at Christmas to commemorate our friendship. Since 2004 we have continued to chalk our walls and homes and have enjoyed a shared Epiphany service with our friends from the Metropolitan Cathedral and children from our local schools.
As we continue to chalk our walls:
May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever.
God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten One to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless our Cathedral and all who enter this space.
Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love.
Guided by a heavenly light, the wise men journeyed to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Christ child. They were the first gentiles to whom the Son of God was revealed. May they be an inspiration to us so that 2022 also brings us closer to Jesus. Amen