Theophany has already passed for those of us following the new calendar. The waters have been blessed. Our souls have been cleansed and refreshed by the drinking/sprinkling thereof. So now it’s time to help our Sunday Church School students learn about house blessings to ensure that they are prepared when the priest arrives to bless their home.
We should teach our students that the house blessing has been part of Orthodox Christian practice for centuries. They should also learn that although the house blessing is not a sacrament, it is an important part of helping Orthodox Christians to live the Faith at home. We also should teach our students (or at least refresh their memory) about the house blessing service itself: First, we can teach them about the service – the order of service, the prayers, and the hymn. Talk together with your class about the prayers, which request God’s sanctification of the home, and what they mean. Together sing the troparion to remind the students of how it goes; and then discuss the words in the troparion. Consider how special it is that they will have time to spend with the parish priest. Remind them that every member of the family can participate in and help with the house blessing, and that the entire family will benefit from the house blessing.
A little education will help our students and their parents to be ready for their house blessing. By teaching them about the house blessing itself, and helping them know what to do to help during the blessing, we will thereby also help our priest! So, let us do all that we can to prepare our students so that they can help to ready their home and their hearts for this special time of blessing!
Here is a useful printable that can help us teach our students about Theophany and house blessings. It also provides a checklist that we can go over together to be sure that we have everything ready! http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/Antiochian_Theophany.pdf
Here are a few other links and ideas that can help you as you prepare to teach your students about house blessings:
The house blessing service can be found in its entirety here: http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/home_bless
“If the priest comes to bless the home when the children are present, they have the opportunity to see the parish priest in a different and personal situation. If the priest permits, they can lead the way through the house, or hold a candle. They can show him their rooms or pets or favorite toys. They receive a blessing with water. For children, the house blessing shows the connection of the Church to the home.” ~ Phillys Onest, from http://www.antiochian.org/content/why-do-we-have-our-homes-blessed (used by permission)
“…By sanctifying our home, we extend the grace of God to the neighbors.” ~ from an Indonesian Orthodox house blessing video found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJm2S5qeDns
Teachers of older students can watch this video with their students. After watching, initiate a conversation about how our Orthodox brothers and sisters around the world worship. What is the same in an Indonesian house blessing as in your own? What is different?
Help your Sunday Church School students prepare for their house blessing ahead of time: brainstorm, and then as a class come up with a list of things they can do to help.
Perhaps they can help to clean the house. They could also prepare the prayer corner and/or gather the items needed for the house blessing. (Find details about the service itself, as well as a list of needed items here: http://www.orthodox.net/10things/theophany-house-blessings.html.)
One item needed for a house blessing is a candle. You could make special rolled-beeswax candles like these (http://www.thecreativesalad.com/2011/11/21/rolling-beeswax-candles/)
with your students, which they could then use at their house blessing.
Another item needed for a house blessing is an icon of Theophany. In case your students’ families do not yet have this icon, the children could prepare one in class, and take it home to have on hand when the priest comes to bless their house. Younger students can color their own copy of the icon, which can be found here and printed: http://i1.wp.com/www.edmontoneparchy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Colouring-Theophany-copy-copy.png.
Older students could adhere a color copy of the Theophany icon onto a pre-painted or stained piece of wood, using Mod Podge as suggested in this blog post: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2014/11/18/family-classroom-project-major-feast-days/.
Although it is not on the list of things needed for a house blessing, encourage your students to write a thank you note for the priest as suggested in this blog post: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2015/02/16/feast-days-epiphany/. Help them to think of how many times Father does this service (and yet he never complains – he even is happy to be at our house!), how tired his voice must feel from singing the troparion over and over in each house he visits (which is why it is important that we help him by learning it and singing along!), how special it is that he traveled all the way to our house and took time for our family, etc. After talking through all of these things, give the students time to write a thank you note to give to the priest when he comes to their home to bless it. Be sure to send these notes home in case anyone has their blessing this week!