Home blessed home: Priest performs ancient spiritual house cleansings in Eastern Kentucky

Published 5:48 am Sunday, April 4, 2021

If ever houses need to be blessed, it’s now.

After more than a year of fighting an ongoing pandemic, most are ready for a cleansing and Father Mark Elliott of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Huntington is trying to bring them some peace.

Since January, Elliott has been performing the ancient ritual of house blessings.

“Home owners want a cleansing,” he said. “We talk about spring cleaning. This is spiritual cleaning at the start of the year. You’re cleaning your house for the year for the kingdom of God.”

While a house blessing may be done at any time, it is connected to major feasts in the Greek Orthodox church. These are connected to Theophany, which is Jan. 6. Elliott said that is the traditional date of house blessings, but with the size of modern communities, not all blessings can occur on that date, so he continues until he is finished. He also said the 12 days of Christmas ends on Jan. 5, so Jan. 6 is a recognition of the birth of Jesus.

“The idea is by Christ coming into the world and beginning his ministry, it’s an encounter between the spiritual and material world,” he said. “To bless water is to bless something that’s material and take that material blessing to the home, baptizing it for the year.”

Elliott said he usually blesses 50 or 60 houses early each year, doing more than one a day and sometimes six or seven in a day.

The family whose house will be blessed prepares before the event begins, he said.

“They clean their house, and their houses are spotless when you walk in the door,” he said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they place a small table near the door with a bowl and some water on it. Elliott said that allows him to avoid going deep into the house. They also might include a family icon, a lighted candle and a small incense burner.