Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bless

“We bless you in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 128/129:8). You know what is sorely missing in this world? Blessings. Not God’s blessings bestowed upon us, for they are innumerable. At the root of many of the woes of the human condition is our failure to bless.

We are often told in Holy Scripture to bless those who curse us, to return a blessing when reviled, to overcome evil with good. But somehow we seem not to think of those passages in the heat of the battle, at the moment of our being insulted or cursed or offended in some way. Not thinking of it doesn’t let us off the hook, however. We have to train ourselves to respond with blessings—and not to wait until we must give a blessing only in response to something else, but to freely and spontaneously bless people and all creation, to have an attitude of readiness to bless.

Here are a few practical examples. Whenever you hear someone take the name of the Lord in vain, just quietly say: “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” There, you have effectively made reparation by honoring God, having “canceled out” the dishonor someone else has just showed Him. When someone is rude or unkind to you, steps ahead of you in line, cuts you off in traffic (lots of curses to overcome here!), or in any way offends you, bless them in the name of the Lord. When someone sneezes, really mean it when you say: God bless you! With your spouse or with friends who may have some irritating fault, rather than (first) praying that God change them, ask that He bless them and give them joy and peace. When driving by or flying over some place or city that is known for its sin, call down upon that place the blessing of the Lord. Demons cannot stand God’s blessing, so they will have to leave.

In general, just be a blessing for others and for the creation. It is true that priests can bless in certain ways that others cannot, because of the grace given and ministry entrusted to them—and priests therefore have a great responsibility to bring God’s blessing upon the world. (I once read an account of a mystic—I leave this to your discernment—who said she saw a certain priest in purgatory whose right hand was shriveled, discolored, and very painful, because he did not use it to bless as he should have.) In the Byzantine tradition, when a priest blesses, he forms his hand into the letters which make up the abbreviation of the name of Jesus Christ (IC XC, which inscription is found on all icons of Christ). So when a priest blesses, he blesses with the sign of the Cross and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—without having to say a word!

But all the baptized can in their own way bless in the name of the Lord. Parents should bless their children; “saying grace” is invoking God’s blessing on our food, as well as giving thanks for it. To bless another is literally to “speak well” (bene dicere, whence comes “benediction”) of another, especially to speak well of them to God. (In Greek a blessing is a eu logia, same meaning, whence comes “eulogy,” speaking well of, or blessing, the deceased.)

Let us decide to bless the world, every day, in the various ways we find opportunity. If the 1.5 billion or so Christians in the world would simply invoke the blessing of the Lord daily, we would see things change significantly and soon. Be a blessing for others as you “speak well” of them and draw them into the Lord’s blessing by your prayer. The blessed life begins here and now.