Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Eleventh Day and Twelfth Night

Tomorrow - January 6th - in my Church, we will celebrate the Baptism of Christ, or "Theophany", as well as the "Great Blessing of the Waters". The celebration of this Feast of our Lord begins on January 5, a day known as the "Forefeast of Theophany". Depending on the day of the week, this could be an evening service with Vespers followed by the Liturgy of Saint Basil or a morning service with Matins and the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (as it will be tomorrow, since Epiphany falls on a Sunday this year).

The Blessing of the Waters is conducted in the church; however in many places throughout the world services are conducted near open bodies of water. As a sign of blessing as Christ blessed the Jordan, holy water is poured into the body of water. An associated tradition has been the tossing of a cross into the water to be retrieved by divers.

During the Orthodox service for the feastday of Theophany (or Epiphany), the priest makes the Sign of the Cross over the water with his hand and prays specifically for God's blessing to be invoked upon it. At the climax of the service, he immerses the hand cross into the water three times in imitation of Christ's baptism to the singing of the festal troparion:


When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest.
For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee,
And called Thee His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ God, Who hast revealed Thyself,
And hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee!

The holy water from the church is given to the faithful to consume and to use in blessing their homes. In the weeks following the Feast, clergy visit the homes of parishioners and conduct a service of blessing using the holy water that was blessed on the Feast of Theophany.

Two beautiful books for Theophany:

A House Blessing by Welleran Poltarnees. This is a beautiful book, with each page highlighing, in famous artwork, a phrase of a blessing prayer. Welleran Poltarnees is the pen name of Harold Darling, an author who has written numerous "blessing books" that employ turn of the 19th to 20th century artwork. This pen name is based on two of Lord Dunsany's most famous stories: "The Sword of Welleran" and "Poltarnees, Beholder of Ocean".

...All who live and visit here shall be friends. 
Kindliness and harmony shall be the watchwords.
Let the mealtimes be far more than the fulfillment of a necessity.
In this home food shall be prepared with grace, and eaten with gratitude.
May this be a place where the laughter of babies is heard,
and the gravity of children is answered with loving respect.
Make this house warm in the winter, and by the fires of an open hearth let comradeship and imagination flower. 
Let this be the place of peace, offering refuge from chaos and doubt, and manifesting in its orderliness, a model for the larger world...

THE THEOPHANY OF OUR LORD by Sister Elayne (now Mother Melania), with illustrations by Bonnie Gillis.  Beautiful watercolor illustrations accompany the beautiful poetic text about the Orthodox Church's celebration of Christ's baptism.

For more about Theophany, go here, to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Website, my source for this post.


  1. Our friends who are Orthodox attend a church where they do this water service each year at the Arkansas River (which runs through Tulsa). I've seen photos and it looks like a beautiful ceremony!

    1. My sister's parish in Santa Barbara does a blessing of the waters service in the Pacific Ocean every year! It is so amazing to see the teens swimming out to retrieve the cross.