January 2011

Here is another video, answering the same question but in a ‘poetic’ rather than ‘prosaic’ way. Not sure who put this little piece together, but I love it.


Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) answers the question: “Are you saved?”

“While praying, a person should not have any thoughts, but rather become selfless. Even the Holy Fathers say this: ‘While at prayer, behave as though there were no one else in the world, just you and God.’ When praying, we should not be preoccupied with ourselves, because in that case we are so absorbed in our own needs that we ourselves are detrimental to our prayer. We interfere with our own prayer. We are our own obstacle. We often think that evil is somewhere out there, but if it were not for the evil that already exists in us, the evil ‘out there’ would not be able to touch us. The evil is in us. However, this evil itself is not to blame. We are to blame for having let it into our hearts and for having disturbed our peace. Let us say someone is threatening us, or trying to talk us into doing something bad. Let him do so; this person has a will of his own. Let him do his job, and we will do ours, which is to preserve our inner peace.”

– Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica


“When hungry, do not throw yourself upon food – else you will overload your heart and body. Eat slowly, without avidity, with reflection to the glory of God, remembering the God Who feeds us, and above all His incorruptible food, His Body and Blood, that out of love He has given Himself to us in food and drink, remembering also the holy word of the Gospel.”

– St. John of Kronstadt

“Through contemplation one comes to understand the changeable nature of visible created things: how they derive from the earth and return again to the earth. All human affairs, all that does not exist after death, are vanity. Riches vanish. Glory leaves us. When death comes, all such things disappear.”

– St. Peter of Damascus

Photo by Travis Dove

by Phyllis Meshel Onest


Begin Everything with Prayer

Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one’s business or office, and even college dorm rooms. “The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children – the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed.” (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)

Back to “The Fall”

From Scripture we know that whatever God created was good, but with “the Fall”, evil entered the world, corrupting the creation. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to save it by effecting a “new creation”. This is celebrated at Theophany, specifically with the Great Blessing of Water. “The consecration of the waters on this feast places the entire world – through its ‘prime element’ of water – in the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification, and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ and the Spirit.” (The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II, Worship, by Fr. Thomas Hopko, p.127.) All the readings, hymns, prayers, and actions of the day speak of God’s presence in our entire world and universe, His creation.

Through water all of the creation is once again sanctified by God, becoming good again, the way God had intended.

The Feast Of Theophany

The Feast of Theophany (or Epiphany) commemorates the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. We know from the troparion of the day that “the Trinity was made manifest” to us. But there’s more to it than this. “When Jesus descends into the depths of the river, there occurs a profound upheaval. It is not the one baptized who is purified, for he is spotless; but it is the water that is transfigured and illumined. This water, which was believed to be transparent and purifying, is in fact polluted, inhabited by evil spirits, servants of the old gods. … By purifying the elements, by sanctifying matter, Jesus frees the cosmos from the powers of evil.” (The Incarnate God, Vol. I, Catherine Aslanoff, French edition editor, translated by Paul Meyendorff, p.163.)

The Great Blessing of Water and the Home

The Great Blessing of Water takes place at the end of that day’s Liturgy. Since our homes cannot be brought 1to the Church, the Church – through the priest and cantor – go to the homes. There the service of blessing, which began in the church, is finished with the sprinkling of water in the home. Traditionally, in most Orthodox parishes, the priest personally visits all his parishioners each year to pray with them in the place where they live, and to bless their surroundings with the newly sanctified water of Theophany (January 6/13). By sanctifying our living quarters, our private place, we extend the grace of God to our individual dwellings. (In very large parishes a yearly visit may not be possible. In areas of the country where the winter is harsh, I know of at least one parish where houses are blessed at the beginning of the ecclesiastical year in September.)We also bring the blessed water to our homes to use throughout the year to bless our homes and to drink whether we are ill or as part of our daily prayer life. “There are many occasions in family life when a sip of holy water can help to remind us of the blessing that was given ‘to bestow sanctification’, ‘unto healing of soul and body’, ‘to be a fountain welling forth unto life eternal’, as the priest prayed in the litany of Epiphany day.” (Little Falcons: Water, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1998, p.33.)

Weaving Christ into Our Lives”

The blessing of homes by these holy waters maintains the spiritual association between the ‘family church’ and the parish, as well as again providing for the sharing of God’s spiritual gifts. … This annual blessing is not as elaborate as the blessing of the new dwelling, but because of this it should not be overlooked, for it is in this way that the grace of God is extended to individual dwellings.” (Marriage and the Christian Home, p.25.)

If the priest comes to bless the home when the children are present, they have the opportunity to see the parish priest in a different and personal situation. If the priest permits, they can lead the way through the house, or hold a candle. They can show him their rooms or pets or favorite toys. They receive a blessing with water. For children, the house blessing shows the connection of the Church to the home.

In Summary

What does it mean to ask God to bless something? All things in the world have been spoiled right along with us. God must bless His world again in order for it to be the way that He wants it to be. For this reason God sent His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the world: to bless everyone and everything that He made, to make all things good again. When the priest comes to bless our homes, he asks God to have mercy on the house, to rid it of every evil and to fill it with every blessing. What a wonderful way to begin the New Year!


Copyright © Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div. This article may not be further reproduced without permission from Phyllis Onest, Director of Religious Education, 2507 Nedra Ave., Akron, OH 44305, e-mail pmonest@neo.rr.com. The article, together with other works, can be found at http://www.phyllisonest.com.


“Today the nature of the waters is sanctified. Today the Son of God is baptized in the waters of the Jordan, having no need Himself of cleansing, but in order to cleanse the sinful human race from defilement. Now the heavens open and the voice of God the Father is heard: This is My beloved Son. The Holy Spirit descends upon the Savior of the world, Who stands in the Jordan, thereby confirming that this indeed is He Who is the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Trinity is clearly made manifest and is revealed to mankind. The waters of the Jordan are sanctified, and together with them all the waters of creation, the very nature of water. Water is given power to cleanse not only the body, but also man’s whole soul, and to regenerate the whole man unto a new life through Baptism.

Through water all of nature is cleansed, for out of water the world was made, and moisture penetrates everywhere, giving life to everything else in nature. Without moisture neither animals nor plants can live; moisture penetrates into rocks, into every place in the world. The waters are sanctified and through them the whole world, in preparation for renewal and regeneration for God’s eternal Kingdom which is to come.

Every year on this day the glory of God is revealed, renewing and confirming what was accomplished at Christ’s Baptism. Again the heavens are opened; again the Holy Spirit descends. We do not see this with our bodily eyes, but we sense its power. At the rite of blessing, the waters which are thereby sanctified are transformed; the become incorruptible and retain their freshness for many years. Everyone can see this- both believers and unbelievers, both the wise and the ignorant.

Whence do the water acquire this property? It is the action of the Holy Spirit.

Those who with faith drink these waters and anoint themselves with them receive relief and healing from spiritual and bodily infirmities. Homes are sanctified by these waters, the power of demons is expelled, God’s blessing is brought down upon all that are sprinkled with these waters. Through the sanctifying of the waters, God’s blessing is again imparted to the whole world, cleansing it from the sins we have committed and guarding it from the machinations of the devil.

Today the Holy Spirit, descending upon the waters when the Cross of Christ is immersed into them, descends upon all of nature. Only in man He cannot enter without his will. Let us open our hearts and souls to receive Him and with faith cry from the depths of our souls:

‘Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and there is no word which sufficeth to hymn Thy wonders.’”


– St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco


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