This little article is not about what you already know about blessing homes – get a candle, get an icon, write out a list of all the living you want the priest to pray for, and write out a list of the departed too. Turn off the television, radio, and other electronic devices… you know all that, or should. This is instead a message about the deeper meaning of this, a serious application of the blessing to our lives.
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The tradition of blessing homes is of special beauty and significance. It is not simply a sentimental custom without meaning. It is attached to a special event in our Holy Church – the feast of the Lord’s Baptism – reminding us of not only our baptisms, but also of the need of baptizing the world in which we live, including what we might call “my world” – ‘my personal space.’
When an Orthodox Christian believer moves into a new home, he dedicates it not only as the abode of a follower of Christ, but also as a shining example to the community of good clean Christian life. He asks that God, the source of all goodness and the Giver of every perfect gift, bless his house and all that is within it; he recalls that Jesus Christ, His Son, came to bring Salvation to it, even as He brought Salvation to the house of Zacchaeus, the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus; he prays that the Holy Spirit may abide in it, guiding those who dwell in it in the Paths of righteousness.
When our house is blessed, after the Feast of Theophany, we rededicate our home for its original purpose, just as we must periodically rededicate our life to Christ. An Orthodox Christian must dedicate not only himself and his house to the Lord, but his daily work and all his efforts as well. All things are to be done to the glory of God. That is why in the Christian Orthodox Church, not only religious objects, such as icons, crosses, churches and vestments, are blessed, but also homes, fields and all objects which are used in our daily lives for the good of man. In this the Church expresses its faith that the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying action extends over the whole Creation.
At the Nativity of Our Lord, we sing a carol which tells us ‘Let every heart prepare Him room.’ We know that this means not only to ‘make a space for’ but it means to clean and cleanse and purify our homes and get ready for Him to come to us, not only in our homes but also, and more especially, into our hearts.
We prepare our hearts and souls and heads, cleaning them of all sinfulness so that when He comes, the place will be refreshed and ready. When someone comes to stay in your guest room (which you may not use often, or may use only to store lots of ‘stuff’), we normally air the room out, dust it and change the bed linens which may have become somewhat musty. We might even wash the windows to let the light shine in, clean the floor, and make room by shoving all the ‘stuff’ into closets (or under the bed). We know then that cleaning the house of our soul is equally hard work – we take stock of our lives and actions over the past year, come to confession so that Our Lord – who washes away our sins when we confess them – when He comes in to us, has a refreshed and clean place worthy of laying His head – He comes to abide in us as well as our homes!
Blessing the home is a spiritual ‘exercise’ led by the Lord Himself, through his priest and in the presence of the members of the assembled family, dressed in ‘good clothes,’ and maybe even invited guests and friends, who all enter into worship and thanksgiving with us. Effective family life does not just happen; it is the result of deliberate intention, determination and practice.