The Powerful Epiphany of Home Blessing
Epiphany is traditionally the time for blessing our homes, since the Wise Men visited the Holy Family in the home they had established in Bethlehem. Our homes are sacred places of rest, of refreshment, of refuge from the cares of the world. These we exchange love with family members, offer care to the helpless, the ill, the young. From there we extend the great Christian virtue of hospitality, by inviting others into our sacred space. How fitting that we should bless our homes, either doing it ourselves or inviting a clergy person to come. Some traditions allow that after the home blessing the priest or deacon uses chalk to inscribe the initials of the (traditional) names of the Three Kings (Gaspar [also known as Caspar], Melchior and Balthasar). He then connects them by drawing crosses, and places two digits of the new year’s number at the beginning and end: 20 + G + M + B + 22.
Three areas of the home are especially only: the threshold, the dining room table, and the bedroom:
At the threshold we welcome all who enter and bless them, whether they be a returning family member of a guest. We, hopefully, open the door of our home to envelope the person in an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance, cherishing and nurturing. As each person leaves, we send them forth with a good-bye – not in the modern casual sense of “see you later” but rather in the original meaning, that of “God be with you” until we see you again. Family members go forth on their mission to bring God’s love (which they have experienced in the home through the mutual self-giving of family members to each other) to a love-less world. Visitors leave strengthened by their time with us. Remember that the earliest shrines – holy places – were in the home; that it was only later in Christian history that we designated churches and other “official” places as holy. We expect to feel a sense of holiness when we enter our church or go to a monastery; we should also expect, when we cross the threshold of a Christian home, to experience that same atmosphere of prayer. Sadly, we don’t have that same sense of holiness in the home as in the church; we need to regain our appreciation that ALL parts of family life, even the messy parts, the problems, failures and stresses, are sacred.
Likewise, our tables are holy, because there we break bread with family as we celebrate unity and with friends as we dispense hospitality. Our meals are the daily celebrations which prepare us to celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays with the wider faith community. Each meal, then, is an observance of the holy, of God-with-us, day in, day out.
The bedroom, too, is holy. It is there, as married couples, that we celebrate our sexuality in our love for each other. It is there that, sometimes, new life is begun, and an old life is ended. For all of us, our nightly falling asleep is a “practice” for that last entrance into sheep, at our death. As we commend our souls to God at nights, and in the morning aware to thank him for the new day and dedicate it to him, this room is sanctified.