“WHEN THOU, O LORD WAS BAPTIZED IN THE JORDAN, …”
by Rev. Fr. Gabriel Barrow
IN THIS HOLY EPIPHANY SEASON, it is the Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church to Bless Water in the Church. This "Blessed" or "Holy Water" is then sprinkled on everything, so that all creation might receive the sanctification that the River Jordan received at the time of the Baptism of Our Lord by St. John the Baptist.
If we turn to the Liturgical text of the Great Blessing of the Water, we find added petitions to the Great Ektenia: "That this water be sanctified by the power, act, and descent of the Holy Spirit … That in this water may be planted the action of purification which belongeth to the Trinity transcendent in essence … That it may be granted the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan … That we may be lighted by the light of knowledge and true worship, by the descent of the Holy Spirit … That this water may become a gift for sanctification, redemption for sins, for the healing of soul and body, and for every meet benefit … That this water may be beneficial for eternal life … That it may drive away all the cunning devices of our enemies, visible and invisible … For those who drink therefrom and take home for the sanctification of their homes … That it may be for those who drink and receive therefrom in faith, a purification for their souls and bodies … That we may be worthy to be filled with sanctification, as we receive of these waters, by the appearance of the Holy Spirit, in an invisible manner …"
Thus, we see from the Liturgical text that this Holy Water is a means by which the Church, through the Holy Spirit, has been given the grace to sanctify all of creation. Yet the key work here is "sanctification." The Orthodox Church is not a magical, cultic church that says a few strange words and does some strange actions and "presto-chango" something strange happens. The Priest is not a magician or master of witchcraft. Instead, the Holy Orthodox Church is a means by which the Faithful may come and, through the hands of the Priest, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, receive Sanctification, Healing, and a Promise of Eternal Life. But the pre-requisite to being a receiver of this Gift of the Holy Spirit is that you must be a part of the Body of Christ, that is, His Church, of which He is the Head. If you have not attended the Services of the Church, if you have not received forgiveness of your sins, if you have not received worthily the Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord, and if you have not sacrificed in every way to show your love and dedication to Christ and to His Holy Church, then the Power of this Holy Water will have little or no effect on you or on your soul. If you are not a True follower of Christ in His Holy Orthodox Tradition, then this Holy Water, sprinkled on the walls of your home will bring, instead of a Blessing, a condemnation upon your home. For our Lord, Himself, teaches: "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46). If we feel that Holy Water sprinkled on the walls of our home by a Priest is an end and a goal in itself, then we are simply pagans, worshipping water and believing in a form of witchcraft. The Blessing of the Holy Water at Epiphany is a sacramental blessing of the Church. You must respond to a sacrament if you are to receive any eternal benefit from it. If we are to call Him "Lord, Lord," then we must do what He tells us!
The Holy Water is the means by which the Church, through the Holy Spirit, by the hands of the Priest, goes to sanctify the homes of its Faithful members. For just as Christ came into the world and sanctified it, so the Church has been given the responsibility to continue this sanctification of all creation, that was begun by Our Lord, Himself, in the Flesh. Any time we receive a Blessing and a Sanctification from the Church, this Sanctification carries with it many duties and responsibilities. In the case of the Blessing of our Homes, or any object with Holy Water, we must promise God that this Holy Water is a means by which we consecrate ourselves, our homes, and our possessions to the Glory of God.
The Holy Water performs a two-fold sacramental action: 1) It cleanses of evil — it is a means by which we purify ourselves, our homes, or any object, casting out any devil that might be in it, and 2) It consecrates to God — having cast out the evil, we dedicate ourselves, our homes, or any object to the exclusive service and glorification of Almighty God. We promise that our homes will no longer be places of anger and places of sin. Instead, we dedicate them as places of love and as dwellings of those who are honored to be followers of the Holy Orthodox Faith. Thus, to receive the Blessings of the Church upon yourself, your home, or on any of your possessions, and then not to use them for Christ, or moreover, to use them against Christ through any form of evil or sin, is an extreme contradiction of the Blessing itself.
Thus with this Epiphany and the Blessing of Our Homes, we must promise God that in the coming year, and from now on, our families and our homes will be dedicated to Him and to the work of His Holy Church. It is only when we, as Faithful Orthodox Christians, obey and follow the Teachings of Our Lord, as taught by the Apostles, as defended by the Martyrs, and as proven by the Saints, that we will indeed be worthy and will truly receive "the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan."
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR THE BLESSING OF EPIPHANY:
After the Priest has contacted you as to the time when he will be coming to your home, you should make sure that all members of your family that live in your home are present when the Priest comes. You should have the family Ikon, either on a table with a clean tablecloth, or if it is kept on the wall in the living or dining room, it may be left there. In either case, make sure that your vigil candle is burning in front of the family Ikon when the Priest arrives. The Priest will bring with him the Holy Water that was Blessed in the Church at Epiphany Services. The whole family should be present for the Service of the Blessing of the Home at Epiphany and all should receive the Blessing of the Priest and the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Water.
MAY GOD GRANT ALL OF YOU A TRULY FRUITFUL, HEALTHY, AND HOLY NEW YEAR!
TROPARION OF EPIPHANY: "When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, and called Thee His beloved Son! And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee!"
KONTAKION OF EPIPHANY: "Today Thou hast appeared to the universe, and Thy light, O Lord, hast shone on us, who with understanding praise Thee: Thou hast come and revealed Thyself, O Light Unapproachable!"
From Word Magazine
<Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America