20+C+M+B+19

This may not be the strangest thing to happen in our building’s very long history in this part of town, but I dare say that it probably stands out. Tonight, our parish priest blessed every room of our tiny apartment with a special prayer based on the function and meaning of that space—yes, including the bathroom.

We started by chalking the door: 20 † C † M † B † 19, the year and the letters of “christus mansionem benedicat,” or “may Christ bless this house.” Our home was then sprinkled with holy water from an aspergillum of rosemary.

Something similar happened every year in Lebanon, but nothing as elaborate as this; just the local priest going door to door, saying a little prayer and blessing homes for the year. It is customary to give the priest some money for his trouble; I found the whole thing suffocating, associating it with clerical arrogance and communitarian insularity. So, year after year, I would hide in my room, refusing the blessing.

I’m glad that we had the chance to do this for ourselves here, precisely because we didn’t have to. I’m also glad that I had a whole week to imagine myself going through with it; the very idea had me choked up, but I kept it together tonight.

My mother had stopped opening the door for the priest back home some time ago, but when I told her my plan for this year, she said she’d invite him in again. I told her that it was time to heal.

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