Friday, October 19, 2012
The Lord: Chapter 45, “Blessing”
“Bless you!” When I sneeze, women are more prone to say this to me than men. Also, I’ve found that Catholic men are more likely to say it than other men. But what does it mean? I must confess: I’ve lived many long years in confusion about blessing—though I’m pretty sure “Bless you” is short for “God bless you.”
Another example. When we line up to receive communion at mass, young children and those “not disposed” to receive communion cross their hands over their chests, to receive a blessing instead. This is fine if the Eucharistic minister (the person serving communion) is a priest; but as an “extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist,” a lay person authorized to serve communion, I cannot bless you.
Why is that? Can’t we all bless each other? What’s so special about blessing?
Romano Guardini explains in this chapter. He cites three examples in the Gospels: Jesus blessing the little children who come to him; Jesus blessing the bread and wine at the Last Supper; and Jesus blessing his Apostles before his Ascension. But then God has been blessing his creation since the fifth day, and the sixth, and the seventh, as we find when we look back at Genesis 1 and 2. Then in Genesis 3, God’s blessing is destroyed by Adam’s sin.
To summarize two full pages: “Blessing is directed to living things.… Blessing is the power that releases the fertility of living things and brings them to fulfillment.… [But] not until Christ’s advent do we learn what blessing really means.… He himself is the living power of salvation from whom blessing streams.…[Jesus’s] blessing goes deeper than mere corporal well-being, warmth of heart, and earthly success, penetrating to the profundity of God in man which is the fountainhead of the individual divine life.… Blessing opens the recipient to a fertility not of this world… Jesus’s blessing redeems us from the curse. Not as the sun frees from darkness or the golden hero of a saga frees from the claws of the dragon..… [But in the end] the battle is a bitter one, not because evil is difficult for God to conquer, but because man’s heart refuses to learn.”
No wonder I can’t bless you when you come to receive communion. When we bless each other, creatures are pretending to be creators. “Where [his] will dominates and is realized, man closes himself against that abundance which comes from sacred blessing.”
What did we say back in school when someone sneezed? If we said anything at all, instead of ignoring, we probably said, “Wow. Good one. Wow.” Or maybe possibly “Gesundheit,” which is only a wish for your good health. “Bless you” would have been a bit too precious.
This series of posts continues here with chapter 46.