O tempora! O mores! I should have known no one uses chalk anymore. Preschoolers haul their iPads into nursery school and 3rd graders are using smart boards. Gone are the overhead projectors and gone are the blackboards, relegated to the dust heap of analog learning. I went to three different stores over Friday and Saturday looking for ordinary, run-of-the-mill white chalk for Epiphany. I found boxes and boxes of fat, multi-colored chalk. Neon green doesn’t quite have the same dignity, or visibility, on a residential lintel.
I was able to scrounge together a few boxes and I broke the chalk into smaller pieces, hoping to have enough for the houses needing a blessing. I had to include a couple boxes of colored chalk, out of necessity. Imagine my delight and surprise when I arrived early on Sunday to discover that all the chalk was white. An Epiphany miracle! I’m sure this will one day be up there with the story of the dogwood and poinsettia.
I love the tradition of hallowing the chalk. If you spend enough time researching its origins, you’ll find vague references to Middle-Europe and the Middle Ages. I like the tradition as it reminds us that faith is domestic. It’s not confined to the church on Sunday mornings only. It should be practiced at home and, among families, there needs to be adult leadership declaring that this is a home under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And it’s one of those arcane traditions that add to the mystery of our faith. By learning the chalk formula (20+C+M+B+19) children learn the names of the Magi, a little bit of Latin, and they contemplate what it means for Christ’s blessing to be upon us.
Epiphany on a Sunday was…different. I’m so used to keeping it as a feast during the week and at night that it felt strange celebrating the Epiphany 3 times in one day. The church was packed, nearly 400, which are about 75 more than average. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the new year and many were making the effort to start 2019 off faithfully. I did observe the gym was packed that afternoon, too, perhaps for the same reason? Whatever the reason, it was glorious to see so many. 400 people also means a couple hundred cell phones, which went off in unison due to an Amber Alert during the first lesson at the 9am low mass. Oddly, mine did not go off. It sounded like a fire alarm (“we’re not even using incense!”).
I blessed chalk at all three masses and the Epiphany Proclamation was sung at 11am (not by me, mercifully). Another old tradition that I’m glad we preserve. Hard to believe that Lent is just two months away and even at that, it’s a late Lent.
After the 3rd mass, we trained new and refreshed current Lay Eucharistic Ministers. We spent a good deal of time talking about Eucharistic theology and piety and why this matters so much. Administering communion is, on paper, a rather straightforward affair but in practice, it can be anything but. We also have a rising practice of communion on the tongue, which I encourage. It’s easier, more sanitary, and puts the communicant in a place of holy vulnerability and reception. Bread of Heaven, feed me!
The afternoon was spent at the gym where I ran (not literally) into three parishioners and the grocery store, where I ran into one. Tuesday marks the 18th anniversary of my first date with my wife. 18 years ago, I prepared chicken on a George Foreman grill, a green bean casserole, brown-n-serve rolls, and a Pepperidge Farm cake. Fine dining back the day. My skills have, thankfully, developed since then but I did prepare all the same things – but not on the George Foreman grill!
Evening Prayer from the St Stephen’s Office with prayers of thanksgiving for the 39th anniversary of my baptism.