It's that time of year, the beginning of January 6, the Feast of Theophany, when Priests will start blessing the homes of the members of their parish.
Blessing our homes is an ancient tradition in our Orthodox Church related to the Service of the Great Blessing of the Waters conducted on Theophany. We take the Holy Water from the Church and we use it to bless our lives in every way possible. The priest blesses us, our homes and by extension all of creation. Not only do we receive a special blessing from God, but through that blessing, God enables us to see His creation in a redeemed way, as a means toward union and communion with Him.
Rev. Fr. Demosthenes Nicolaou, Parish Priest of Saint Paraskevi Church in St Albans, Melbourne Australia, has kindly shared some advice to help prepare us for 2023 House-Blessings.
Fr. Demos explains, "House-blessings for the Year 2023 will begin as from tomorrow. It's a beautiful time of the year where your local Parish Priest will come into your home and bless your dwellings and your families and even pets. This is an enjoyable experience both for the Priest and families as it is one of the few times throughout the year, and sometimes the only time in the year, where your Priest comes into your home.
Sometimes, as joyful as this can be we also don't know what to expect or what to do, even though the visit is brief in most cases, sometimes things can get awkward! So here are some tips on what to expect and what we need to do to prepare."
The Priest will come to your home holding a Cross and a bunch of basil. He is usually assisted by another person holding a small container of Holy Water, which the Priest will use to rinse around your home and bedrooms. You can also ask the Priest to bless your gardens and pets if you wish. As the Priest blesses the home he will chant the hymn of the Theophany. The blessing doesn't take more than 5 minutes.
We take the Holy Water from the Church and we use it to bless our lives in every way possible.
What do you need to do?
- Inform all your house members that the Priest will be visiting so everyone is aware. It can be very awkward when family members are not expecting the Priest.
- Dress appropriately. I know you are in the comfort of your home, but the Priest doesn't need to know what pjs you wear, sometimes very unsuitable for the occasion.
- When the Priest comes in, walk to him, don't wait for him to come to you, kiss the Cross he is holding, then kiss his hand, and he will in turn bless you with the Holy Water using the basil bunch.
- When you see the Priest come in, stand and don't be shy to walk to him to receive the blessing of the Cross. Turn off TV's and other devices for the few minutes the Priest is there. It's surprising to see how many people see the Priest come in their home and are still sitting on the couch just watching. This can be uncomfortable, because the Priest is not sure if the person wants a blessing or not.
- Don't expect the Priest to open the doors of your home himself. Keep open all rooms you wish him to enter and bless. The Priest won't open doors, this is to prevent any awkward situations such as walking in on someone sleeping or getting changed. If the door is shut the Priest will assume, "Do not disturb".
- Don't throw coins in the Holy Water container, it's not a wishing well!! If you do wish to make an offering to the Church you can pass it on to the Priest's helper as they are leaving.
- A nice custom, but not compulsory, is to light your incense when the Priest comes, sometimes a member of the family will follow the Priest with the incense burner.
- Have your vigil lamp (καντήλι) lit. Remember, having the Priest come to bless your home assumes wanting Christ to put things in order in your home. This begins by Christ's light which our vigil lamp reminds us of.
- Lastly, BE PATIENT! It's very hard to know what time the Priest will be at your house. There's hundreds of you and one of him. Most parishes these days have a timetable posted on social media, you'll know which day, but not what time. Not even roughly, there are always changes and hiccups throughout the day, so please be patient and don't add more stress to the Priest by calling repeatedly or messaging constantly, "Father, we are waiting for you, what time are you coming?" Let me assure you, he's not sitting somewhere casually twiggling his thumbs!
Wishing you all a blessed feast of the Theophany, may the Light of Christ bless and sanctify us all and our dwellings!
Fr. Demosthenes Nicolaou, known as Fr. D or Fr. Demos to his parishoners, is a much loved and respected Priest in the north-west suburb of Melbourne, St Albans, at Saint Paraskevi (Saint Barbara and Saint John the Merciful) Greek Orthodox Church.
Where to find Fr. D