Travel posters depict images of “paradise” — places that are always sunny, calm and pleasant, with lush green grass; blue skies and clear, clean water. That’s the “ideal” weather for places of “paradise”. But, all of this is weather on the outside of our homes. Inside our homes, we are faced with many factors that influence our “inside weather conditions”: the stress in keeping up with demanding schedules; the pains of injury or illness; the arrows of temptations that are flung at us by worldly media and by demons themselves — all of these factors come together to create stormy weather in our lives and in our homes. On the other hand, our “inside weather conditions” can be made pleasant by virtue of such factors as these: family prayer; spiritual discussions centering on the Sunday school lessons of our children, the sermon of the day, or the prayers and hymns of the Divine Liturgy; participating as a family in the Sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion; reading the Bible and the lives of the Saints. All of these positive spiritual factors are elements that clothe our souls with the Image of Christ. When each of us was baptized, we took upon ourselves the Image of Christ and it is through Christ that we can maintain constant “inside weather conditions” that make for Paradise on earth – a foretaste of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is found in our parish churches as we celebrate the Holy Sacraments. Through the Sacrament of Marriage, the Kingdom of God is also found in our homes, which are miniature replicas of Christ’s Holy Church. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is to be found in our own hearts and souls.
The hymn of today’s Orthros Service (The Katavasiai, Fifth Ode) states: “Jesus, the Ruler of Life has come to abolish the condemnation of Adam the progenitor. He cleanses the fallen in the Jordan; slays in it the enmity and grants peace beyond understanding.” No earthly “paradise” can compare to the heavenly Paradise of “peace beyond understanding”, which is the gift of our baptism in Christ. Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos, in his book, The Major Feast Days of our Lord, states that the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan and our own personal baptism comprise a mysterious catastrophic event, much greater than that of the Flood at the time of Noah. At the time of Noah, the waters were meant to wash out humanity, because of sin; now, the waters of baptism, through Christ being baptized, gives life to those who suffer the consequences of sin, which is death. Then, Noah built an ark out of simple wood; now the Symbolic Noah – that is, Christ — made an Ark of His own Body through the Pure Virgin Mary. Then, the dove, which held a twig of olive in its beak gave notice of the goodness of Christ the Lord; now, the Holy Spirit, which descended as a dove, gave witness in pointing out the Merciful Lord Himself. Everything that happens with the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan reoccurs in our own personal lives through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. In following Christ, as inheritors of His Kingdom (which is True Paradise), we dedicate everything in our lives to our Lord: our houses; our cars; our businesses.
This is the reason for blessing our homes as we celebrate the Feast of Theophany (which is also called “Epiphany”). Accordingly, the Orthodox theologian, Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald of Holy Cross Seminary stated: “The Great Blessing of Water…not only remembers the event of our Lord’s baptism and the revelation of the Holy Trinity (“theophany”: the “manifestation of God”), but also expresses Orthodoxy’s belief…that humanity and the created world were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God. After the solemn blessing, the Holy Water is distributed to the faithful and is used to bless homes during the Epiphany season. When the faithful drink the ‘Epiphany Water’, we are reminded of our own baptism. When the Church blesses an individual, or object, or event with the Water, we are affirming that those baptized, their surroundings, and their responsibilities are sanctified through Christ and brought into the Kingdom of the Father through the Holy Spirit” (http://www.goarch.org/).
When we renew our souls with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were given to us at our baptism and which are rekindled through the Blessing of Waters of our Lord’s Baptism in the River Jordan, our “inside weather conditions” are every bit as peaceful and beautiful as any earthly place of “paradise”. We have a foretaste on earth of the Heavenly Paradise, which is described in our funeral services as a “place of light; a place of green pasture; a place of refreshment, from where pain and sorrow and mourning are fled away.”