Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Of all the wonders of planet Earth and human physiology, the main “ingredient” that makes up the human body is, remarkably, the same one that covers three quarters of the planet- water. As we see in every corner of creation, water is synonymous with life. The greatest forests and jungles on earth grow where there is an abundance of water. Farmers require water to grow their crops, which can grow even in the most barren environment with just a little water. The sound of running water attracts animals, whether a watering hole in the African savanna or a bird bath in one’s backyard. An oasis, a patch of water found in the middle of the desert, is a life-saving, life-sustaining spot in an otherwise lifeless area. Indeed, in recent years, Californians have seen, firsthand, just how damaging a drought in our area can be! Throughout history, in every civilization, water is seen as precious, as necessary to survival, to sustenance, and to growth.
In the Bible, as well, the Lord uses water on countless occasions to save and to sustain life. In the story of creation, in the book of Genesis, the Bible tells us that “the spirit of the Lord hovered above the waters,” as He prepared to give the earth form. (Gen 1:2) The Hebrews, fleeing the wrath of the Pharaoh of Egypt and crying to God for help, were saved when the Lord parted the Red Sea, and they passed through the waters (Exodus 14: 10-29). While wandering in the desert looking for water, Moses tapped a rock and out came water to replenish the people of God (Numbers 20: 10-13). There are countless stories of life-saving water in the Scriptures and the lives of saints.
The beginning of the Lord’s ministry on earth was his baptism by the hands of Saint John the Baptist in the Jordan River, a life-sustaining body of water in an otherwise arid land. According to Saint John Chrysostom, the Lord did not consent to be baptized because He needed to be sanctified, but rather to sanctify the waters, so that each believer may be sanctified. Much can be said about this great moment in the history of salvation that we celebrate each January, especially about how we as Orthodox Christians continue to experience the miracle of the sanctification of the waters each year- through the service of the blessing of the waters celebrated on January 5th and 6th, by baptizing our children in a font of water, and how we bless our homes the beginning of each year with holy water.
Traditionally, families ask the priest of their community to come to their home sometime between January and March (depending on the size of the parish) and celebrate a house-blessing service, in which the hymns of Theophany are chanted, and holy water is sprinkled around the home. One might ask, “Why is water used to sanctify a home? Can’t we just say prayers for the home?” The simple answer is, yes, of course we can. However (and here is the long answer), water, as we remember, is synonymous with life. It is a reminder to us of how often God used water in life-saving miracles. It is also a “tangible prayer,” in that we can touch it, feel it, and drink it. And on top of all that, we as Orthodox Christians firmly believe that God can work through created matter. Each sacrament involves something created- oil that is blessed for Holy Unction, two human beings who are blessed in Holy Matrimony, bread and wine that is consecrated during Holy Communion, and water that is blessed for Holy Baptism. Since we believe that the Holy Spirit is just as active today as He was at the Jordan River on the day of Theophany, the benefit of praying this service in the home is nothing less than making present the blessing of the Jordan in our home- spiritual strength, protection, and the peace of God.
This New Year, when we begin focusing on our New Year resolutions and things about ourselves that we want to improve, let us also focus on our connection, our relationship with the Lord, and attend one service in which water is blessed. Or at the very least, remember to pick up a bottle of holy water for the home. It will be just as sustaining to our soul as water is to the earth.
With love in Christ,
Father Niko Bekris
If you would like to have your home blessed this New Year, contact Fr. Niko at the church office (510) 581-8950 or firstname.lastname@example.orgOur Church