A Greek Orthodox House Blessing - Father Steve and the Bush Branch
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- House blessing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Holy water - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The Prayer for the Blessing of Homes at Theophany — Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Dialogue Prayer between the Priest and the family and friends spoken at house blessings. - F.B.
- Saint George Greek Orthodox Church, St. Paul, Minnesota
Excellent and easy to understand details and facts on House blessings and its correlation with Theophany, The Feast of Lights. - F.B.
- Holy house call: Priest drops in, blesses each room : Local News : Memphis Commercial Appeal
House Blessing in Memphis, a brief article. One family's story, it includes some interesting information on some of the details involved. - F.B. "It was dark by the time Rev. Paul Christy reached the Semos family home in Germantown."
- Orthodoxy Now: Blessing The Home (Video) — Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Detailed video explaining the who what where when and why of house blessings video found here. Links to other multimedia programs from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- Greek Internet Market
Buy greek items here. Including items for traditional celebrations, customs, rituals, etc. Good prices. -F.B.