Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Gift of the Blessing

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Agenzia FIDES –  20 may 2009


The Blessing of the Father in Heaven

The Blessing of Christ

Blessings in the Life of the Church

The Priest's Blessing

The Blessing in the Family

The Gift of the Blessing

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - Blessings belong to the great spiritual treasures of the Church. They are a wonderful gift of God to mankind. How often do we experience the comfort and strength which a blessing - received in faith - gives us. Blessings number among the simplest signs by which the Church expresses her loving care for each person. Mother Church accompanies us with her blessings from the cradle to the grave.. Any liturgical celebration and the administering of all the sacraments is linked with the sign of blessing.The blessing has a permanent place in the life of the Christian family. In all the situations of life, in joy an sorrow, for young and old, a blessing is a source of hope and confidence. The Latin word for blessing, "benedicere", means literally: "to say (something) good". From the book of Genesis we know that if God says something should be, it is, and it is good. When we ask God to bless us, we beg Him - as before Holy Communion - to say the word and we will be healed. God's word upon us brings us something good and saving for body and soul. Let us meditate on this wonderful mystery of the blessing with the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that we can receive it and /or give it with even greater awareness.

The Blessing of the Father in Heaven
Blessing and life belong closely together. All life - both of nature and of grace - comes from God. The blessing is power of God which gives life and sustains it. In the Catechism we read: "Blessing is a divine and life-giving action, the source of which is the Father" (1078). The Apostle Paul expressed this beautifully in the Letter to the Ephesians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:3-4).
Sacred Scripture speaks of the mystery of God's blessing, from beginning to end, . "From the beginning until the end of time the whole of God's work is a blessing. From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one vast divine blessing." (1079)

The whole of the history of salvation is a sign of the marvelous blessing by which God blessed us even before the creation of the world. "From the very beginning God blessed all living beings, especially man and woman. The covenant with Noah and with all living things renewed this blessing of fruitfulness despite man's sin which had brought a curse on the ground. But with Abraham, the divine blessing entered into human history which had been moving towards death, to redirect it towards life, towards its source. By the faith of 'the Father of all believers', who embraced the blessing, the history of salvation is inaugurated" (1080).

God's blessing then works in two ways: It drives away the powers of death and darkness, which have entered the world through sin, and it grants anew to man that life which binds him to the source of all life, to the Triune God.

Because Abraham received God's blessing in faith, he became himself a blessing: "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. …and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gen 12:2,3). As people of faith we are called to follow the example of Abraham because "Every baptized person is called to be a 'blessing' and to bless." (1669). Mother Julia thus invited the Spiritual Family The Work: "We are to be a blessing. That is our whole mission."

The Blessing of Christ

Already in the Old Testament God revealed His blessing in astounding events: "in the birth of Isaac, the escape from Egypt (Passover and Exodus), the gift of the promised land, the election of David, the presence of God in the Temple, the purifying exile and return of a 'small remnant'" (1081). These divine blessings find their fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Son of God and in the sending of the Holy Spirit. "The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and the end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. In His Word who became Incarnate, died, and rose for us, He fills us with his blessings. Through His Word, He pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit" (1082).
The promise to Abraham, that he would be abundantly blessed, found its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ. For this reason Elizabeth cried out to the Mother of Jesus the beautiful words which we repeat in each "Hail Mary": "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk 1:42). God blessed Mary in a unique way because of her all surpassing faith: "The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person 'in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places'…(Ep 1:3)" (492).

Her Son Jesus Christ brings to mankind the fullness of God's blessing which man rejected and lost through sin. As we said, blessing and life go together. When therefore Christ said of Himself: "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10), He could likewise have said: I came that they may have blessing and have it abundantly.

In the Gospel we read that Jesus blessed the five loaves and the
The Last Supper in Milan (1498), by Leonardo d...

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 two fishes before He wondrously multiplied them (cf. Lk 9:14). We all know the moving scene of Jesus taking the children in his arms, laying his hands on them, and blessing them (cf. Mk 10:13-16). When He left to His disciples His most precious gift, namely the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, which we celebrate every day, yet especially each Sunday, He took bread and wine and gave thanks and praise. He said a blessing, and gave it to them with the words: "Take this; this is my Body. … This is my Blood" (Mk 14:22-24).

Finally, it is especially meaningful that His last act before ascending into heaven was to bless His disciples: "Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up into Heaven. And they worshiped Him…" (Lk 24:50-52)

Blessings in the Life of the Church

From the beginning the Church has given her blessing, in faithfulness to the testament of Christ. The Apostle Paul began most of his letters with a blessing: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7; see also 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3, etc.).All the faithful are exhorted to bless: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Rom 12:14). "Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing" (1 Pet 3:9).

In the course of centuries various blessings have come into use in the Church. Throughout the ages these were collected ever and again in a Benedictionale; liturgical books which contain blessings for various times in the liturgical year (the blessing of candles on the Presentation of our Lord, of palms on Palm Sunday, of water in the Easter Vigil ; then the blessing of throats on the Feast of St. Blase, etc.; then there are blessings in the life of the family and in public life (the blessing of the couple on a special wedding anniversary, the blessing of fields, of a house, of a car or a machine, etc). Through the abundance of blessings, the Church expresses her concern for the welfare of man, especially for his everlasting salvation.

Moreover, each sacrament is accompanied by other sacred signs called sacramentals. Among them are "sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church" (1667). So they prepare people "to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy" (1667).

Thus the Church knows various forms of blessings: the simple blessing (of persons, objects, places or meals) "praises God and prays for His gifts". "The Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ" (1671).

A special type of blessing ("not to be confused with sacramental ordination") consecrates persons to God (the blessing of an abbot or abbess of a monastery, the consecration of virgins, the rite of religious profession, etc.) Another type sets certain objects apart for liturgical use (the dedication of a church, of an altar, of church bells,or also of liturgical vestments and utensils: holy oils, vessels, also icons and pictures etc.). These blessings "have a lasting importance" because they consecrate persons or reserve objects for divine worship (1672).

Finally there are the exorcisms, when "the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion" (1673). In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. Of course, we should often pray with faith and trust for protection against the evil works of Satan, implore the help of the Archangel Michael, and in a spirit of faith make the sign of the cross with holy water, etc. The solemn exorcism, called a "major exorcism" can be performed by a priest only and with the permission of the bishop.

When we in faith ponder on the power and the richness of the blessing in the life of the Church, we can understand the words of Mother Julia: "The blessing is like a light shining more brightly than the light of the sun."

The Priest's Blessing

All who are baptized can bless. However, "…the more a blessing concerns the ecclesial and sacramental life, the more its administration is reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests or deacons)" (1669). The Church has always believed that the blessing of a priest is of specific importance.
Already the priests of the Old Covenant had received the special authority from God to bless. God chose Aaron and his sons to be priests and told them through Moses: "Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Numb. 6:23-27).

In Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant, whom the Father sent "to bless all of us" (cf. Acts 3:26), we have the fullness of God's blessing. The priest of the New Covenant receives through his ordination the authority to give people, in the name of Jesus Christ, the "fullness of the blessing of Christ" (Rom 15:29). Faith teaches us that it is Christ Himself who works and blesses through the priests (1548). Mother Julia says this in simple words, which bear witness to her deep faith: "The priest's blessing is a wonderful gift coming to us from God. It is God Himself who on the day of his ordination gave the priest the power to bless".

The Blessing in the Family

When they were first created, man and woman received a special blessing: "God blessed them, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase …" (Gen. 1,28) Therefore it has rightly been said: "Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity." (2373).

Through the sacrament of marriage Christian parents receive the mission to bless one another and the children whom God gives them. When this is done regularly and with faith in the family-circle - for instance after rising in the morning or before all leave the home or at night before going to bed - this blessing marks the whole atmosphere in the family: it becomes a source of grace, of unity and peace, helping the children to get to know the beauty of their Christian faith already at an early age.

The blessing, given to the children by their parents, and especially also the occasional blessing by a priest who visits the family, is a precious means of religious education, if it is given and received with respect and faith: "Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the first heralds for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one's life" (2225).

Among the simple expressions of faith, which are of great importance in the daily life of the family and which have a notable influence on the atmosphere of the home, is the blessing before and after meals: "Even when we have done our work, the food we receive is still a gift from our Father, it is good to ask Him for it with thanksgiving, as Christian families do when saying grace at meals" (2834).

A blessing is something great and beautiful. Let us endeavor to receive and to give it in an attitude of faith and awe. The blessing is, as it were, a spiritual bond between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and us, that strengthens us in the unity of the Church, the large Family of God, and guides us to adoration in spirit and in truth: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord the Lord of Hosts".(Is. 6,3)

Dossier by p. Hermann Geissler FSO
Per gentile concessione della Famiglia spirituale "L'Opera"
Agenzia Fides 20/05/2009; Editor Luca de Mata

Blessings from+
Deacon John

Sent from Mt Dora, Florida, United States
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