A few days ago I blessed the new home of some friends of mine. All the kids had moved away, and their old home had become simply too large. For this and a lot of other reasons the time seemed right to downsize, and they had found a lovely spot that was beautifully-suited for two. Even so, I could only imagine the difficulty of leaving behind an old friend of a home and forming new habits in a new neighborhood.
Moving out of a home in which you’ve lived for twenty or thirty years has to be a wrenching experience. Family members have made memories there. Milestones in life have been celebrated or survived there. And to borrow an image, a home can become a comfortable old shoe. It has to be tough to leave behind something that is almost a part of you.
At the other end of the spectrum sit those houses that never have the chance to become homes. I suppose that in some cases they are the products of our changing attitudes toward housing. For some people houses are now investments, habitation units, showcases of wealth, or places to be occupied until their usefulness has been sucked dry. For such houses there’s been neither the time nor the inclination to form a sentimental attachment.
Of the few things I watch on television, my preference runs to those shows about house-hunting. The situations often have the ring of a game show in which people list the specifications they want in the ideal house and the budget they can afford. Generally the two are ridiculously out of sync, but it’s the job of the housing brokers to work miracles. And if they can’t do it, it’s their fault.
Of those shows my favorite by far is The Property Brothers, featuring twins who are eternally sunny and upbeat. Like all the other shows in this genre, their challenge follows a predictable model: find the home of their clients’ dreams at a price-point comfortably below budget. And how hard can this be? You get an inkling when the camera turns to their poker faces, just as they realize that once again they have morons for clients.
In one imaginary scenario a couple wants a house with 6,000 square feet, five bedrooms and six baths, an open-concept living area, and an oversized kitchen with granite everywhere. It should sit on two landscaped acres, have no neighbors or traffic, be convenient to schools and shopping, and be a short commute to downtown. And one more thing: the budget is $125,000.
I can only imagine what the Property Brothers are thinking when they hear these sorts of demands. Just once, however, I’d like to see them whisk their clients off to the dream home that combines the amenities and price that the clients deserve: a huge tent on the outskirts of a refugee camp in Turkey. Of course the place lacks an easy commute to work, but access to nature more than makes up for that minor inconvenience. Even better, it falls within the budget.
Granted that this is an extreme example, it’s still not far from the unrealistic dreams that so many people expect to have fulfilled on the spot. They want a house and not a home. And better still, they want a house that they can sell for a tidy profit in a few months’ time.
This brings me back to the business of blessing a home. So what’s the point of blessing a home anyway? Well, it’s not to ensure that the air-conditioning never breaks down, that the roof never leaks, or that the sceptic tank won’t back up while you’re away on vacation. Nor is it a ritual to cast out the demons who might take possession of your prized appliances. It’s none of that at all.
When we bless a home we invite the Lord to come and dwell with us, so that our house becomes a home in which love and respect and hospitality are the order of the day. It’s an invitation to the Lord to sanctify both a structure and the people who have moved in.
The order of blessing that I used for the home of my friends comes from the Book of Blessings, and the ritual is not terribly long. And it concludes with these words: “Lord be close to your servants who have moved into this home and ask for your blessing. Be their shelter when they are at home, their companion when they are away, and their welcome guest when they return. And at last receive them into the dwelling place you have prepared for them in your Father’s house, where you live for ever and ever. Amen.”
And what might be the price-point on a home in which the Lord has chosen to dwell? What would somebody charge for a place like that? I’m not sure what the Property Brothers would have to say, but I’d put the cost at something just shy of priceless.
+On November 11th our Brother Damian Rogers passed away after a long struggle with cancer.
+On November 13th I spoke at three services on The Saint John’s Bible at Rockpoint Church in Lake Elmo, MN. Lake Elmo is a suburb of St. Paul, located just before you would fall into the St. Croix River and swim across to Wisconsin. The members of the church gave me a wonderful reception and I thoroughly enjoyed the morning there.
That afternoon I attended a memorial service at Assumption Church in St. Paul, for members of the parish who had passed away during the past year. The monks of Saint John’s founded that parish in the 19th century and served it for many years. For just as many years a statue of Saint Benedict stood on a side altar to the left of the sanctuary. But alas, he has worn out his usefulness and will shortly be moved to a new home in the basement of the church.
+The photos in today’s post show Blenheim Palace outside of London. It’s more than big enough to be a house but not really much of a home. It has many of the amenities that people look for in a house, including a chapel where the Lord can take up official residence.