“It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of
Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”  – Mark 1:9

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

It has been an absolute joy for me, personally, that Resurrection has such a robust culture of house blessings. Each year I look forward to coming to your homes with holy water from church to spend time together and pray!

In the Bible, 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. 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. 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. It will be just as sustaining to our soul as water is to the earth.  

Happy New Year!  Kali Xronia!

With love in Christ,

Father Niko Bekris