A Greek Orthodox House Blessing - Father Steve and the Bush Branch

Constantin Dimitrie Stahi - Natură moartă – Apă sfinţită (Holy water) - oil on canvas - 60 x 75 cm - Muzeul Naţional de Artă
Constantin Dimitrie Stahi - Natură moartă – Apă sfinţită (Holy water) - oil on canvas - 60 x 75 cm - Muzeul Naţional de Artă

Ten years ago, we had gotten our house blessed

by Father Steve from the Greek Orthodox Church. It was great, and surprisingly not at all as I assumed it would be. Here is the scoop and some great links to video and info on the who what where why how and how oftens of house blessings in the Greek Orthodox tradition.

Father Steve came over with his wife and mother. His wife is young and pretty, well she looks younger than she is I think. They have a son who is nine. His wife is from Greece.

I am not sure when it was that Father Steve came here from Greece, or if he was here in America all his life. I do know that his mother is from Greece. Her name is Athena. She wanted to win our son, Alexander, over, but I am afraid that did not ever fully happen. However, he did crack a few smiles for her later in the evening.

Friends

My mom invited the Norman's from two houses down, who are as Georgian as any peach. I imagine Sandra Norman to wear a little Bo Peep outfit, gossiping while sipping lemonade. She's the sweetest thing.

She had an operation on her shoulder because it was frozen from some scar tissue blockage or something. And it is actually worse now than it was before the operation a few weeks ago.

Mr. Norman is nice, but he is kind of an ego man, you know? I am not sure how else to describe it.

Stavroula Gailey, my son's Godmother, came with her husband, Platon. She is Greek and she lives in the neighborhood and teaches math at the University. She is a casual woman and totally fun.

Her husband isn't quite how I thought he would be. he is actually pretty cool and fun himself. They work well together at any rate, as a couple. Dr. Gailey (Mr. - both have doctorates, actually) just retired; from speech therapy, I believe?

Stavroula's father stayed home because his back was giving him problems. He is here for a few months from Greece. He comes twice a year for a few months at a time. But he gets kinda lonely.

Family

My Aunt Angela, my mother's sister, was there. She wore this neat taupe colored nail polish. She was waiting for a prescription to fill the other day at the Walgreen's or somewhere and she browsed the cosmetics isle. She found a polish she really liked, tried some on, and liked it; so she decided to finish the look since she had nothing better to do.

Her husband, my Uncle Paul, and my cousins Paulie and Nick, couldn't make it.

My sister was in town for the weekend, so she was there. She is getting ready to graduate but doesn't really know what to do after that.

And then there was my mother, Dave, Alexander, and I to partake of the festivities. However Little Man (Alexander), was taking a nap when they all got here.

Shoe problems

I was unfortunate enough to have shoe problems. I had just bought a simple black dress for this occasion, and other possible future church functions, though I had not yet purchased a pair of shoes. The only pair of dress shoes I had were a size 8 1/2, which fit fine a month ago. However since then, my feet have shrunk. Whoever said your feet are changed forever after you have a child, lied to some degree. At any rate, I thought I'd be smart stuffing my shoes with tissue paper. Let's just say, I'm glad my Birkenstocks are black and that it was a comfortable crowd.

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Waking the baby

Father Steve seemed pleasant when I first cam up to greet him. Come a half-hour later, he was a bit edgy.

Well, apparently they were all waiting for the baby before starting the ceremony, or so I was told. I don't know. I figured it didn't really matter if the baby participated or not.

So, Dave and I decided that we would wake him up as gently as possible and prayed that it wasn't too premature. He is so terrified of a bunch of people surrounding him that may try to take him from his mama... you know.

Everything went smoothly. He was a bit scared and wouldn't get too close at first. We had his soft red blanky for comfort and protection. It helped him get through the hardest part, which was meeting people he didn't invite.

He's been getting a billion times better at his people problem since we started going swimming at the club this last week. Stavroula was beginning to take it personally. She felt that Little Man thought she was a scary lady, one could certainly understand this, but really she's a sweetie - with a dirty chat room.

Stavroula's dirty chat room

You may be wondering what I meant by that, and if you knew Savroul you'd know the shock I felt when first hearing of this myself.

See at University, she was trying one day to log onto her mailbox, Internet, whatchamahoozits, as she likes to say, and found that for the love of God, she was unable to get on. Well, she was outraged! You can imagine. She had things to do for school and she couldn't get onto her own computer.

Stavroula marched on down to the computer center and asked "what the heck" was going on here. She gave them a piece of her mind. "Hold on, hold on," they said. "Let's look at something here." And when they did, they said, "just a moment please."

Well, apparently what happened is they had to cancel her id number and give her a new one. This is because a former student decided to create a chat room (nationally) under Stavroula Gailey's name and ID. This particular chat room was, how should I say it, "risque", to put it mildly. Stavroula had no idea. Now had that person picked someone else's ID, they may have gotten away with it. But I don't think even the wildest mind could see Stavroula Gailey as the Triple X Chat Room Queen.

Icon of Jesus.  Photo courtesy of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Icon of Jesus. Photo courtesy of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
front and back image of wooden cross.
front and back image of wooden cross.

Oops

So back to the House Blessing. Father Steve put on his long, black robe with the hand sewn, fancy, gold stitching down the front. Greek Orthodox Priests have some of the most beautiful robes I have ever seen.

For the blessing, he used all household items. There was a crystal bowl, tap water, a cross that could be emerged in water, a leafy branch from a side yard bush, and for his alter, a card table with a white, linen and lace tablecloth draped over it. He read from his book that looked like a bible but wasn't. I forgot what they called it.

I did not know this at the time, but, remember when I said that Father Steve had seemed to have gotten edgy, and I thought that it was because he was waiting for the baby? Well, it turns out that Father Steve seemed to have forgotten his cross at home. He was very upset about this. Once we got him ours, however, he relaxed and went about his business.

Father Steve is a very mellow, gentle, relaxed man. For the most part he is quite approachable. I think that people forget, however that he is a man, so there is that natural barrier that comes with the territory.

sweet basil bush - Sprigs of basil are dipped into a bowl of holy water.
sweet basil bush - Sprigs of basil are dipped into a bowl of holy water.

Swat!

Everyone was standing in a semi-circle, quietly, with their heads bowed and or watching Father Steve do stuff with the leaves and water and the cross and the bush branch. Father Steve sang a little too, and those who knew the songs sang along when appropriate.

Well, Little Man thought that this was just the greatest thing he ever experienced. And then when Father Steve came around and swatted the top of every one's head with a wet bush branch, well that was the coolest thing in the world.

Little Man looked at everyone just a little bit differently after that. He had a blast.

Are we allowed?

When the ceremony was over, everyone talked, while Father Steve and my mom went around the house and Father spanked the air with the wet bush branch.

Actually, people were standing around, asking each other whether or not it was appropriate to sit, or should we be following, and what have you. Father Steve said, as he walked by at some point, "It's okay, you can all relax and sit and talk now. The ceremony is over." I think we were just a bit embarrassed initially, but you could hear breathing sounds again.

I now pronounce this house blessed.

Photo courtesy of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Photo courtesy of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

So that's it, huh?

When Father Steve was through, it was time to eat. My mom played it smart and got bags of stuff from Sam's Club, like shrimp, honey barbecue mini chicken legs, potato skins, scallops with this fabulous mustard sauce, potato salad, cole-slaw, french bread, and cheese cubes. Not very Greek, but quick, simple, and enjoyed. And the smartest thing she did was buy paper plates and plastic cups for the event.

Father Steve gave a short but sweet blessing before we all ate, and that was that.

Not what I thought this whole ceremony was going to be like at all. And Little Man was cooed over and he gave out smiles and talked with people. Surprisingly so, the house feels exceptionally springtime fresh and pleasant now. Thanks Father Steve.

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Comments 18 comments

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I'm still laughing, so hard, I mean it. I had a no-good-horrible-rotten day, and you and Father Steve and Little Man just flung me out of the doldrums. I think it was the nail polish that started it, because by the time I hit the part about Stavroula's website, I nearly spit out my afternoon coffee. Next time I read one of your Hubs, I ain't drinkin' nothin'. "...spanked the air with the wet bush branch." Puhlease! Thumbs up!


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Thanks Sally. So glad you enjoyed it. The behind the scenes things are often the funniest. I was just this very moment thinking, you know, maybe I should have been a bit more serious and gone into more details. I think I'll leave it as it is and let the links do the serious part. So glad you enjoyed! Thanks.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Ay ay, your Aunt Angela and her nail polish had me going, too! :-) How cool that the little man found the ceremony such a blast! One hardly ever hears that type of version, Little Men (and Little Ladies, too!) tend to find this kind of gathering and going ons a bit, err... upsetting? Overwhelming? Well, one just never knows what goes through the heads of Little Men! :-)


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Hey there Eleni. She's a character. Most of us have done that in one point or another in our lives, probably. Thanks for stopping in and commenting. Glad it put a smile on your face. =D


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Great stuff, Frieda - I laughed all the way through. The Greeks cannot do serious - any solemn occasion is comedy waiting to happen.

Lucky that the priests have a sense of humour, and enjoy the odd glass of Ouzo ;)


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Ah! You are so right sufidreamer! I'm glad you understand. I never really realized this until you told me. But yeah. So I suppose I was right to turn this hub out the way I did. It wouldn't be Greek if I didn't, huh?

Thanks for commenting, excellent points you make.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Not a worry - Greeks are very informal about everything. At an Orthodox service, people wander in and out of the church, and children are allowed to play outside if they get bored.

When people ask me what Greeks are really like, 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' has it pretty much spot on. Never a dull day!


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Ah yes, my favorite movie. I have a cardboard movie poster of that I found at a thrisft store. And you're right. For all our rituals and whatnot, we do bend the rules and have fun with all of them. Never a dull day for sure.


SoulaBee profile image

SoulaBee 7 years ago from United States

Lovely piece. I quite enjoyed the various characters you presented. Refreshing look at an interesting topic.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Thanks SoulaBee!


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Haha, SoulaBee is in the house. hahaha that's fuunier than your wonderful story. you slay me girl. ROKLMAO! shit! dam. now I forgot what I wanted to say!

I'm bad. shit, still laughing. BRB


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

I'm back. I just love that painting and I love Greeks too. Great food too I might add, really love that. I really enjoyed this Frieda and you just make your life so interesting to me when you write about it. I felt as tho' I were joining you and your family event and chuckled as Father Steve went about with the bush twig tapping everyone on their noggins and then sprinkled the home too. Dr. Stavroula sounds so endearing and that was a very nasty thing to have happened to her, but funny as well. Also am glad young Alexander enjoyed the fun too. thanks for a really special read, happy Easter dear


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Glad Soula and I could get you going with a good laugh. LOL That was a good one, huh? I had too. I can't resist.

Also glad you enjoyed the hub. Thwack. Happy Easter to you too C.C. Enjoy yourself.


God 6 years ago

Religiaon seperates us from our brothers and as we stan divided from eachother, we wonder why cant God bring us together. Well I will tell you you cant come together until you stop pulling eachother apart. Believe in God not religion!!!!!


ChristinCordle12 profile image

ChristinCordle12 5 years ago

Glad to visit here.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

You wrote this wonderfully funny. It's funny to see this event through the eyes of one who is not a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

I have a friend who is greek and greek orthodox. She loves to take me out to lunch so we can talk theology. There is no animosity at all because I am a born again Christian. We have these discussions with love and truly love to learn. However, when I told her I'd like to visit her church just for the experience and to find out more she was very happy and we set a date. Before we went home after lunch though I warned her I was not looking to convert. So the day before I was scheduled to attend her church I called her to make arrangements to meet. She decided she didn't want me to come until I read a book on a man who converted from born again Christian to greek orthodox. She sent it in the mail, I read it, it was interesting, but still I do not want to join the orthodox church. But I sent the book back and thanked her and said I still had questions. I haven't heard from her and it's been a few months. We are pretty good friends so I am hoping she is just busy and not miffed that I didn't convert.

Thanks again for a great hub.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America

I was intrigued by the top photo and then enjoyed reading about your family and the house blessing. I had not known that this was done inn Orthodoxy, but it is lovely. Big Fat Greek Wedding is a very pleasant movie to watch as well. Rated Up and more and pinned.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 4 years ago from Saint Louis, MO Author

Patty, glad you popped in. I love love love My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I have a hard time using Windex without cracking up. Yes, house blessings are a big thing. A lot of superstitions in our religion and therefore quite a bit in the way of blessings. As a matter of fact, my sister is having one in a few weeks at her house just because it's been a while and things are a bit chaotic in her life . Thanks so much for the rating and the pin and shares.

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