Sunday, January 29, 2012

a house blessing for Epiphany

For several months, since moving into our rental home in August, we'd planned to ask some prayer-warrior type people walk through our house, praying blessing and renouncing curse in the space.  This would not be the first time we'd welcomed this sort of prayer.  As sure as God created and then incarnated physical space, we believe praying over space is no superstitious act.

Our intention took on more shape as we began to enter official ministry roles at Christ Church.  And as the adrenaline of the move began to wear off leaving behind a slithery trail of ennui in it's departing wake, we began to notice patterns of emotional, spiritual, and physical flare ups surrounding important ministry dates.  Or around times of planned rest and renewal.  We called time and again on our community of pray-ers, asking them to raise up a canopy of intercession over our tired and fearful selves.   

At the peak of an especially intense weekend, one which as I think back to describe it all I can imagine is 24 hours x 3 or 4 days of tears and door slamming, we knew the presence of a lower-case other in our midst.  Really just harassing us, lying to us, accusing us to ourselves and to each other.  We slammed doors as exclamation points on unspoken sentences of worthlessness, despair, fatigue, longing for something -- anything -- to feel just a tiny bit familiar to our adventure-weary souls.  Brian sat down yet again to type out needy words to those committed to our care, in the very same moments a piece of artwork in our sons' room seemingly jumped off the wall.  It's possible all those days of door slamming had shaken it loose, but it felt like it might have been the work of that lower-case other overplaying his hand.  

The print was a piece of artwork we'd purchased last Christmas for our son, entitled "A Clash That Speaks True".  Yeah, we didn't think that was a coincidence either.

Still, the weeks of Advent went by and Christmas shone in.  We rested, lived with the delights of comfort and joy for a few weeks.  On January 2, Brian was packing his suitcase to leave for ten days.  We were preparing for an important ministry meeting the day after he returned. I was reading up on the historical practices of Epiphany. I remembered reading about this tradition in Bobby Gross' devotional guide Living the Christian Year:
One Epiphany tradition, the blessing of the homes using holy water and incense, has been practiced since the end of the Middle Ages. The letters C, M and B are usually traced on the doors as a reference to the names of the Magi, although Adolf Adam reports an alternative interpretation: the initials stand for Christus mansionem benedicat, or "May Christ bless the dwelling." Frederica Mathewes-Green describes the use of newly blessed water in her church on Epiphany: "The holy water represents baptism, and during the period between Theophany and Lent each year, every Orthodox home is to be visited by the priest and sprinkled with the water, carrying our baptism home."
I am thankful for our Rector, Father Clifton Warner (known by most of us, most of the time, as Cliff) who generously met us late on a Wednesday evening.  He showed up with a small branch of evergreen, a small jar of clear water, another of anointing oil and a sheaf of papers printed with Anglican house blessing prayers.  We clustered around him -- uncertain, a bit awkward.  He asked if we owned a cross to carry from room to room.  Can you believe the best we could offer was a wooden cross on a loop of leather my son received for his birthday? 

One of us carried the cross, one the oil, one the water and we followed Cliff from room to room in this homely liturgy.  Praying against any evil plan ever made for each space in our home, against every intention opposed to the good will of our Father, every mis-invited spirit not from the Giver of every good gift.  We prayed for blessing, peace, purposes lined up with the Christ who is with us, before us, underneath and above us.  We prayed written prayers, words selected with wisdom and experience.  We prayed our own made-up words -- sometimes tears without words, sometimes with giggles (someday, have your teenage children stand at the foot of their parents' bed and see if you all can make it through without an escaped guffaw or two...).
Protect us, Lord, when we are awake, watch over us as we sleep; that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in his peace. In the name of Jesus Christ, we claim this bedroom as a haven of rest and command any evil spirits to leave this place and never return. We ask you, Lord, to bless this room and this bed, and to send your holy angels to guard it and protect those who sleep here from every attack of Satan or his emissaries. Holy Spirit, we ask you to fill this place, and minister to the hearts of those who abide here, bringing comfort, peace and rest as they sleep.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We agreed together with each word, each smudge of oil thumbed over doorways, each flick of water with evergreen stem.  We loved each other with prayer and fought for each other and said words of sorry, please, and help.  Perhaps, most powerful, though, were the thank-you words, the remembering together of the abundant generosity of our Father.  

(Click here for a pdf of An Anglican House Blessing)
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