blessing house

IMG_0427Two years ago, I stood in my living room watching an Orthodox priest and his wife pray for us. My husband prayed with them, making the sign of the cross whenever they referenced “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

I was resigned. Tim had recently told me he had decided to be baptized into the Church. I had exclaimed in dismay, “I thought this was a phase!” I had truly hoped so. But I had been wrong. Now, for the third year in a row, we were receiving the ritual known as a house blessing.

Our daughter had instigated it the first time. She lived with us for a while, having moved home due to one of those financial binds college graduates get into. In January of 2009 she asked if her priest could come bless our house, sprinkling water throughout as is the Orthodox Christian custom. Tim and I agreed, bemused to some degree. We had visited the church where our daughter became a catechumen, as they call someone exploring Orthodoxy. Her intent from the first had been to be baptized, and this was soon to take place. Why she considered her newfound community The Church, and why she felt strongly enough to go through a second baptism, we didn’t understand (she’d first been baptized as a child by her dad). Of course I can’t speak for Tim, but I know I didn’t get it. I also worried about the priest flinging water hither and yon, perhaps into back closets where mold likes to show its ugly, Western Oregon wetness self.

As it turned out, I enjoyed our first house blessing. We followed Fr. David from room to room, he and an accompanying acolyte chanting about Christ being baptized in the Jordan and how that event made the Trinity manifest, enlightening the world. No closets were opened and the sprinkling caused no water damage. Our daughter’s face radiated joy. That was what mattered.

The following January, Tim asked if we could invite Fr. David and his wife, called Popadija Esther, to come for dinner as well as the house blessing. Our daughter had moved away. I decided to be polite, knowing that the ceremony wouldn’t be long or bothersome. Somewhere during the past year Tim had entered his “phase” of interest in Orthodoxy.

So we spent an evening with the gracious couple, and I, ever nervous about playing hostess, was relieved it went well. Soon afterward, Tim bought an icon of Jesus. Our daughter gave us a small one of the Last Supper, which I hung in the kitchen. Then Tim, who had attended an Orthodox church history class, mentioned he was becoming a catechumen. “Fr. David said it’s the thing people who want to find out more tend to do.”

IMG_0451_2None of this changed my life, and I never planned that it would. I had asked our daughter many questions her first year in the Church; I had read a book by an author whose name I was familiar with, and that was it. I knew this denomination was not for me.

For one thing, I wasn’t sure I believed anymore in the Trinity. I wasn’t strongly thinking I didn’t, but I had reasons for my near-dismissal of it as doctrine or dogma or whatever it was. My history as a Christian hadn’t given me any good reasons to believe that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit weren’t simply pieces of the narrative I believed God had been writing/telling throughout history. There were many other pieces, and, yes, the Gospel of the god/man Jesus was the most important piece for me to understand. But did that have to make Jesus, let alone the Holy Spirit, the same as God in some mysterious fashion? I no longer thought so.

If my loved ones wanted to go around performing quaint, ancient rituals designed to invoke the Trinity, that was their choice; I supported them. I considered this all quite unnecessary. By the time Tim came out, in January 2011, with his almost reluctant admission that he wanted to be baptized, I sighed and I exclaimed (hence, I’m sure, his reluctance to tell me). Yet I maintained I would endure it, as long as no one pushed me that direction. No one did. The night of our third house blessing I stood like stone as the waters were sprinkled. I knew exactly what I was doing. I was being my own person, who had studied and gained a pretty good understanding regarding Christianity. A little water and a few prayers I could manage to endure.

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