St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
House Blessings - Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe

It is the practice of our Church that in the days and weeks following the Feast of Theophany, every Christian has his home or dwelling-place blessed by a Priest with the ‘Waters of Jordan’ — that is, the holy water that was blessed and sanctified in the church during the special rite performed there on the eve of the Feast and the Feast itself. This is a blessing that is performed in every home every year during this festal period (not only once, when you first move into a new home), and is an essential part of the connection we maintain between the liturgical life that takes place in our church temples, and the prayerful and spiritual life we maintain in our homes. The prayers intoned by the Deacons and Priests during the blessing of the waters in the church specifically implore God that this holy water may ‘be for the sanctification of homes’; for this reason, our participation in the festal blessings of the Theophany is not complete until we welcome the Priest into our home to bless it for the new year, sanctifying it with the grace of the Spirit that has come upon the waters, and with the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ Who was baptised therein according to His Father’s will.

For this reason, every faithful person in every parish should make it a priority, in the coming days, to contact your Priest and arrange a date and time for him to visit your home (these house blessings are normally performed over several weeks, between the Feast and the beginning of Great Lent, which this year is on Monday, 2nd March 2020). In anticipation of the ceremony, before the Priest arrives at your house you should arrange on a small table a clean bowl, into which the Priest will pour the Jordan water before sprinkling it throughout the house (if you have taken home some of the water, this can be put into the bowl; if not, the Priest will bring it with him). Next to this bowl should be placed a Cross (which can be taken from your icon corner; if you do not have one, the Priest will bring this as well), as well as a commemoration list on which you have written all the names of your Orthodox family living in there, as well as any other Orthodox family that you wish commemorated, as at the end of the blessing of the house the Priest will say a prayer for them. All the doors within your home should then be opened so that the Priest can move freely throughout the house with you: after he has said a few brief opening prayers, you will lead him through the house as he sings the tropar of the Feast — leading him into every room (including garages, cellars, storerooms, etc.) with the exception of lavatories; and in each room the priest will sprinkle holy water in blessing. At the end you will return to the table where you began, where the Priest will conclude with prayers for you. (As a clarification, this blessing is performed whether you live in a house, a flat, an apartment or even a single-room university accommodation: whatever your dwelling-place, you should have it blessed each year during this season).

The entire rite of blessing a home takes only fifteen minutes, though it is customary for families to provide a small tea or lunch for the Priest at its conclusion, which provides a blessed opportunity for Father to visit with you at home, converse about your life and offer a spiritual word. It is customary to give the Priest a small monetary donation as he departs, as a small offering of sacrifice — and in practical terms this assists the Priest with the costs of making such visits as well as helps him in the support of his family.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this tradition to our spiritual heritage as Orthodox Christians. If you have not done this in the past, then this is the year to begin. God, through His Church, is offering us in these very days the blessing of a visitation to our dwelling-place, to anoint it with His Presence and sanctify it with His grace. Do not deny yourself this gift of the Lord’s love!