The blessing of a home is an ancient Christian practice that helps us remember that our Christian life of faith and love is lived not only in Church on Sundays but also in the home daily.
The Orthodox tradition (Western and Eastern) is to bless homes in the days and weeks after Epiphany. The connection to Epiphany is important.
At the first Epiphany, the Magi entered the home of the Holy Family to present their gifts. Blessing the home opens our eyes to see that Christ already lives in our home; and it acknowledges that our entire life—even the most mundane, routine, and intimate aspects—is a gift that we offer and ask Our Lord to bless.
Additionally, the Gospel reading for the first two Sundays after Epiphany center around the home. On the first Sunday, we hear of the Child Jesus in His Father’s home, doing His Father’s business. On the second Sunday, we hear of Christ blessing a wedding (and thereby, the establishment of a new home and family) with His presence. Blessing the home teaches us that we must also focus more on our heavenly Father’s business of prayer, fasting, faith and love; and less on seeking pleasure in this world. It also teaches us that the Lord’s marriage blessing extends beyond the wedding day, and is intended to enrich, strengthen, and encourage all aspects of family life.
The words of blessing ask the Lord defend and protect the home from discord and strife; to fortify and grant healing when we suffer any affliction at home; and to inspire the family to teach, model, and live Christian values. With these words, the blessing of the home hopes to bring calmness and serenity in the place where you live.
When the prayers are said, holy water is used together with incense. The incense indicates that the prayers and the Lord’s blessing pervade the entire house, and remind us that we are the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor. 2.15), called to live a holy life in every part of our home, with every member of our family.
The holy water is used to chase away all devilish thoughts and desires, to protect from harm, and to bring tranquility to the home. The prayer used in blessing the water says it this way: “Let this water serve thee, O God, in expelling demons and curing diseases. When it is sprinkled in the homes of the faithful, may they be cleansed and delivered from harm. Let these homes enjoy a spirit of goodness and an air of tranquility, freed from baneful and hidden snares.”
In addition to the prayers, the door is marked with chalk as a daily and annual witness (mostly to the inhabitants) that the home is also the Lord’s residence. Applied are both the numbers which indicate the year of blessing, and the letters C, M, B. These letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.”
The blessing of the home is not limited to the days after Epiphany. The blessing should also be used whenever Christians move into a new residence, or whenever there is external or internal strife in the home or family. Toward this end, there are also other rites for blessing the home which the priest may use as suggested by the particular situation.
Whether it is done annually or when there is a distressing time, the blessing of the home is another why of asking God’s grace to overcome the fallout of sin, even in our homes. It’s all part of living as God’s people and being sustained by His mercy.