Friday, January 8, 2010

Down By the Riverside --- The Jordan River

Well, its hard to believe that Christmas has already come and gone, the older I get the faster time flies! That's a scary thought. We still have our tree and decorations up but soon they will come down, put back in their boxes, and stored away in the attic till next December.

Earlier this week, on January 6, we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany or sometimes called Theopany. This is a very big celebration in the Orthodox Church. In the Greek language the name Epiphany means "manifestation" or "revelation" and in terms of this feast we celebrate the revelation of the Trinity in the baptism of Jesus.

During the Epiphany season Orthodox Christians have their home blessed by their parish priest. The priest comes over and celebrates a short prayer service and then goes around room by room sprinkling blessed water throughout the house. It is a very old custom and is done in many traditional Orthodox countries. People also have their cars and animals blessed as well. One year my wife and I were visiting a monastery in upper New York state, it was frigid cold and the nuns asked me to bless their barn. So in we went and I blessed the goats and the sheep, it was noisy in there!

To an outsider this blessing business might seem like a lot of hocus pocus, an act of magic. However, blessing objects like homes, cars, animals, boats and so forth is a reminder that God has given us material things for the good and to use to his glory. We are not making these objects holy or special, but the blessing is for us as a reminder of how good God has been to us.

The following hymn is sung as the priest goes around the house and it is also used during the season of Epiphany in our Church services:

When thou O Lord was baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
When the voice of the Father bear witness to thee
He called thee his beloved son
And the Spirit in the form of a dove
Has confirmed the truthfulness of his word
O Christ our God who has revealed thy self
And has enlightened the world glory to thee!

The picture above is a shot of the Jordan River. The Jordan River is not a very wide river but it is quite long. It originates in the north of Israel in an area called Caeserea Philipi and then snakes down to the Sea of Galilee and then down south. When our group of pastors went to the Holy Land we stopped along the Jordan River. To our suprise we heard a bunch of loud voices below us under the bridge and what did we see but a group of teenagers taking a rafting trip down the Jordan, go figure!

Happy home blessings!