Home Blessed Home: Local Priest Shares Spring Ceremony

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — If ever houses need to be blessed, it’s now.

After more than a year of fighting an ongoing pandemic, most are ready for a cleansing and Father Mark Elliott of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Huntington, West Virginia, is trying to bring them some peace.

Since January, Elliott has been performing the ancient ritual of house blessings.

“Home owners want a cleansing,” he said. “We talk about spring cleaning. This is spiritual cleaning at the start of the year. You’re cleaning your house for the year for the kingdom of God.”

While a house blessing may be done at any time, it is connected to major feasts in the Greek Orthodox church. These are connected to Theophany, which is Jan. 6. Elliott said that is the traditional date of house blessings, but with the size of modern communities, not all blessings can occur on that date, so he continues until he is finished. He also said the 12 days of Christmas ends on Jan. 5, so Jan. 6 is a recognition of the birth of Jesus.

“The idea is by Christ coming into the world and beginning his ministry, it’s an encounter between the spiritual and material world,” he said. “To bless water is to bless something that’s material and take that material blessing to the home, baptizing it for the year.”

Elliott said he usually blesses 50 or 60 houses early each year, doing more than one a day and sometimes six or seven in a day.

The family whose house will be blessed prepares before the event begins, he said.

“They clean their house, and their houses are spotless when you walk in the door,” he said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they place a small table near the door with a bowl and some water on it. Elliott said that allows him to avoid going deep into the house. They also might include a family icon, a lighted candle and a small incense burner.

“We have a brief service and follow a set text,” he said. “Sometimes people bring me a bunch of basil. It’s the plant we use to immerse in water to distribute the water. I bring some of the water I blessed on Jan. 6 and pour some of it into their water. I also bring a bottle of holy water for them to keep in their home.

“The service consists of a series of brief petitions that pray for the household and oftentimes have the names of the people written out and they will be remembered in prayer. I will repeat the prayer used on Jan. 6 asking that the people will receive a blessing and they are blessed by partaking of the water.”

He said he brings a small blessing cross to emerse in water three times, which is symbolic of Jesus going into the water of baptism, while singing a hymn. Elliott said participants also may drink the holy water.

“I take water from the bowl and walk around the house and sprinkle water all over the house. I go into every room in the house, the basement, upper levels, but with COVID, I try to refrain from that and just stick with one floor.

“Petitions are offered and a final blessing and prayer of dismissal. I invite people to come forward, invite them to kiss the cross and sprinkle their heads with water.”

While a house blessing may be done at any time, it is connected to major feasts in the Greek Orthodox church. These are connected to Theophany, which is Jan. 6. Elliott said that is the traditional date of house blessings, but with the size of modern communities, not all blessings can occur on that date, so he continues until he is finished. He also said the 12 days of Christmas ends on Jan. 5, so Jan. 6 is a recognition of the birth of Jesus.

“The idea is by Christ coming into the world and beginning his ministry, it’s an encounter between the spiritual and material world,” he said. “To bless water is to bless something that’s material and take that material blessing to the home, baptizing it for the year.

“By blessing the house, we are reclaiming it for the kingdom of God.”