Holy house call: Priest drops in, blesses each room
By Lindsay Melvin (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, January 30, 2009
It was dark by the time Rev. Paul Christy reached the Semos family
home in Germantown.
The priest of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in East Memphis
usually doesn't make house calls.
But for several weeks now he's been crisscrossing the city and
suburbs, visiting the dwellings of his parishioners.
This time of year, requests for house blessings keep him busy.
"This has been done since the third century," Christy said.
Throwing on a long black robe, the priest stood before the Kandili, a
flame symbolizing the light of Christ, burning above an altar of
saints at the entrance of the house.
The Semos family gathered around him as he dipped a twig into a bowl
of holy water and sent droplets of water and prayers to the parents,
daughter and Yiayia, Greek for grandma.
Typically, a basil sprig is used to sprinkle the holy water, but
lacking the appropriate foliage, Christy made do with a twig
confiscated from a house plant.
Trailing behind the priest, the Semos family followed him from room
to room while he flicked each corner of their home with holy water in
the shape of the cross.
"The Church and the house, heaven and earth are meeting," Christy explained.
Earlier this month, the Orthodox church marked Theophany, which
celebrates the baptism of Christ and the manifestation of God to man.
People come to church in large numbers to be blessed and many take
home bottles of holy water.
In the weeks following Theophany, it's customary to invite the priest
over to bless the home.
Parishioners often do the house blessing themselves, but because a
priest is considered a visible manifestation of God, many prefer that he do it.
"They want Christ in a tangible, physical way in their home," Christy said.
Of Annunciation's roughly 300 families, Christy expects to visit 50 of them.
"You always want to bring home the beauty of the church," said Luane
Semos, as a pile of her daughter's stuffed animals received a holy dowsing.
Evangelia Semos, known even to Christy as Yiayia, recalled the priest
coming through the house like a cyclone when she was a young girl in
Overloaded with homes to bless, there was no time for catching up
with news or sitting down for a meal, she said. He blessed the house
and was on to the next, she recalled.
Christy, on the other hand, sat down to go through a book of animal
blessings with the Semos' 7-year-old and tucked into dinner with the
family afterward -- including Yiayia's homemade koulouri cookies.
"I always want to sit at the table," Christy said. "It's their
blessing back to me."
-- Lindsay Melvin: 529-2445