by Fr Gabriel-Allan Boyd
During each of the six years that Presvytera Danita and I lived on the east coast…as the seasons would begin to change from summer to fall and then especially to winter we found ourselves struggling to keep our spirits up. The more each day waned into darker and shorter hours, with the sky around us turning gray, the more we found ourselves in a battle with the blues. To help manage these blues, we painted our furniture and our walls in bright colors, and filled our apartment with lots of lamps as a kind of therapy to help compensate for the gloomy shadows we felt so heavily during the winter. We desperately needed light to keep at bay the world’s encroaching darkness.
There’s another kind of darkness for which we also need a kind of light therapy…against what Saint Paul describes as, “the powers of this dark world—the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). These forces of evil are so very subversive, because, as Saint Paul also reminds us they masquerade as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). The powers of this dark world use their influence to convince us that through their secular approach, they have come to usher in the light and goodness that God stands for (without all the constraints and restrictions of actually devoting our lives to obeying and worshiping God). However…they ultimately leave us only with darkness. Why? One of the symptoms of secularism is a so-called belief in God without the worship of God (which is, by the way, precisely what the demons have: belief without worship). Thus, you hear people, unwittingly under the influence of these dark powers, making speeches with a call to a frenzy of activism that exemplify “speaking your truth,” instead of speaking THE Truth. It seeks to keep us in a state of perpetual outrage, reminding us constantly about the ways we have been, or are being victimized. The spirit of this age is all about keeping our passions in turbulence…in a constant state of agitation. While it pretends to lead all of us to the light of moral high ground, it is constantly fleeting, merely shortening our days, because it gloomily keeps our attention focused on the world’s encroaching darkness. We’re in dire need of something far more timeless and enduring than each individual’s infuriated truth. We desperately need light therapy from Him who is THE Light, to keep at bay the world’s encroaching darkness.
Thus, the Church gives us Theophany…The Feast of Lights. Of course, while this great feast commemorates Christ’s Baptism, we’re especially mindful of the fact that at that scene, God lovingly revealed Himself to us in three persons, Father, Son & Holy Spirit and reminds us that our salvation cannot come from our own frenzied individual truths, but only comes from One source. “We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.” So, a key theme—perhaps THE key theme—of Theophany is light, in reference to our spiritual illumination by the Holy Spirit. In this Theophany season, there are a whole host of words and ideas that gather around and shine forth from this central theme. At the Blessing of the Waters, in one of the beginning prayers by the priest, the tone is set with these words, “Lord Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son…Light from Light, who came into the world to enlighten it, flood our mind with light by your Holy Spirit…” As we sing the kontakion hymn for the feast of Theophany, we proclaim, “You appeared today to us on earth, O Master, and Your light was signed on us who cry aloud to You and say with understanding, O Christ our God: You came and shone forth, O Light unapproachable.” As we further pray for the sanctification of the waters, we pray that the Holy Spirit descends upon them, just like He did at Christ’s baptism, transforming them as set apart unto God. We further pray that the water may receive the cleansing operation of the Trinity, so that through it we may receive the Grace of Redemption (as those reclaimed by God for our original purpose)…so that we may be illumined with the Light of Knowledge and Piety through the descent of the Holy Spirit.
After the blessing and enlightening of the water, the very first thing the priest does with it is carry it throughout the Church, sprinkling it upon each person, blessing them with this Light of Knowledge. What knowledge? It’s the comprehension that our source of salvation doesn’t come from speaking our own individual truth in a constant state of agitation and activism…the idols of this world…but rather, it comes from the timeless Trinity, THE Truth, who descended upon and transformed these waters. As faithful, we see ourselves in a new light, as set apart unto and transformed by that very same Trinity. Our lives are rededicated (devoted anew) to the realization that God became what we are, so that we may become what He is.
Then, the priest gives this water of enlightenment to each of the faithful to drink…and he asks each family to schedule a House Blessing for their own homes…so that as their possessions are sprinkled with this transformed water of Light, the enlightened faithful begin to see everything they own as set apart to God for His purposes…and in this way as a continuing source for our salvation…of our being united with God for His purposes. We aren’t worked into a frenzy about the world’s encroaching darkness, but rather are given the Light of Christ…the Light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5).
Have you scheduled your Light Therapy for this Theophany season? Have you invited your priest to bring Holy Water to bless all your possessions? Have all your possessions been taken from the demons’ secular influence and given over as set apart unto God to use to accomplish His purposes as a means for worshiping Him and uniting yourself to Him?
A house blessing is pretty easy to do and only takes a few minutes. All you need to provide the priest is a list of all of the names of everyone living in your household. Make sure the television and other media is turned off and open the window curtains to let light into each room. We can begin the house blessing at your family icon corner…or if you don’t have one of those yet, at least have an icon of Christ, or the Theotokos sitting on your kitchen table. The priest will bring everything else needed for the blessing. The service begins with the Trisagion prayers and goes through the “Our Father.” Then the priest and the family walk through each room, baptizing it with the Holy Water (setting it apart unto the worship of the Trinity), singing the hymn, “When You were baptized in the Jordan O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. And the voice of the Father bore witness to You, calling You His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of that Word. O Christ who revealed Yourself as God, and brought light to the world, glory to You!” After this, there is a short set of prayers and the service is ended.
Do you feel the world’s darkness closing in around you? It’s time for some Light therapy!