Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one’s business or office, and even college dorm rooms.
From Scripture we know that whatever God created was good, but with the Fall, evil entered the world, corrupting the creation. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to save it by effecting a new creation. This is celebrated at Theophany, specifically with the Great Blessing of Waters. “The consecration of the waters on this feast places the entire world — through its prime element of water — in the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ and the Spirit” (Hopko). All the readings, hymns, prayers and actions of the day speak of God’s presence in our entire world and universe, His creation. Through water all of creation is once again sanctified by God, becoming good again, the way God had intended.
The Feast of Theophany commemorates the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. We know from the Troparian of the day that the Trinity was made manifest to us. But there is more to it than this. “When Jesus descends into the depths of the river, there occurs a profound upheaval. It is not the one who is baptized who is purified, for he is spotless; but it is the water that is transfigured and illumined. This water, which was believed to be transparent and purifying, is in fact polluted, inhabited by evil spirits, servants of the old gods. By purifying the elements, by sanctifying matter, Jesus frees the cosmos from the powers of evil” (Aslanoff).
The Great Blessing of Water takes place this year at the end of the Evening Divine liturgy on Tuesday night. Since our homes cannot be brought to the Church, the Church — through the priest and other faithful — go to homes. There the service of blessing, which began in the church, is finished with the sprinkling of water in the homes. By sanctifying our living quarters, our private place, we extend the grace of God to our individual dwellings. We also bring the blessed water to our homes to use throughout the year whether we are ill or as part of our daily prayer life. The blessing of homes by these holy waters maintains the spiritual association between the Church and our homes, as domestic churches.