Blessing is something that we do all the time. Religious and non-religious people bless those around them every day. The very idea of blessing people and things has entered into our cultural vocabulary and seldom now do we stop to think about its deep religious overtones or indeed the meaning of what we are doing when we give other people our blessing. Earlier today I had the most wonderful encounter with blessing (the details of which, if you don’t mind, I’m going to keep to myself), and this encounter has had me thinking of what blessing others actually means.
Dear friends, I wish to thank you for the many kind Christmas greetings. May the Lord bless you all!—
Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 05, 2014
Two moments of blessing come to mind from my own religious tradition; the Sermon on the Mount with its “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20 NRSV),” and the words of the Eucharist: “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation…” It may not seem obvious at first, but both of these are words of thanks, in fact, to someone who believes in God as the source of all goodness and life, blessing is the very epitome of thanks; the most profound thank you one can offer. It is saying to our Maker ‘thank you’ for someone or something because the gift of these people or things has made the world a better place, enriched our reality, made life worth living.
Blessed are you who are poor is by no means gratitude for the cruelty and injustice of poverty, but a thanks to God that God has never ignored the suffering of the poor, but has come to be among them, and stand with them for justice and restitution. Blessing the God of creation for bread and wine in Jewish and Christian traditions is a joyous thanks for the bounty of the earth, and in the Eucharist of Christian tradition both praise and thanks that our God in Christ has embraced the most common necessities of human existence to grace us with his presence.
So when we bless others what is it that we are really doing? Well, to begin with it’s not magic. It’s not going to improve people or affect some sort of miraculous healing. No, it remains a thank you directed only to God, yet speaks of our feeling towards the recipient. It says this: You are the real miracle here; everything that you are is world-changing and special, and I am moved in my heart and soul that you are in my life – and I give thanks to our Maker for the gift that is you. Yes, that is what blessing is. I’m sorry it’s not the magic spell you may have been looking for – it is so much more.