Sunday, 30 September 2018

An act of blessing

Ava - our little, anti-social blessing!!
A lot of my Facebook feed over the last few weeks has consisted of various colleagues conducting Blessing of the Animals services and ceremonies in their communities. It is Spring here in Australia, the perfect time to bring out your cats, dogs, chickens and goldfish and cause a raucous in a local park or the church grounds. Don't get me wrong - I love animals and my reaction is out of jealousy. My own gorgeous pup is so anxious that taking her along to such an event would soon resemble some strange scene of animal sacrifice. Therefore, my inability to take my own beloved pet along causes me to avoid such events.

But what is it that we feel we are doing by blessing our pets? The word blessing is thrown around a lot today. "It has been such a blessing to spend today with you." "The new baby is such a blessing." "What a blessing to be in this place!" Some people sign off their emails or letters with Blessings... Those of us who have connections to some church or faith community will have another understanding that is to do with the words that are said over people or sacramental elements at various times during worship.

This pondering reminded me of a retreat day I attended in 2012. The facilitators were Jeff and Caryl Creswell from Parker Palmer's Center for Courage and Renewal. The theme they chose for the day was blessing. We talked about the etymology of the word that day, and perhaps the various meanings are part of the misunderstanding of the word. One origin of the word, from Old English bledsiad, means "to sanctify or consecrate with blood". This imagery, that is vitally connected to the life force of ancient traditions, implies invoking divine favour upon someone or something. I hear a lot of people use blessing in this way. Sometimes, it is inferred that a blessing is a reward for good and faithful service.

Another root of the word blessing comes from the Latin verb benedicere, which means "to speak well of". In these terms, to bless someone is to speak well of him or her. Ron Rolheiser, in his book 'Against an Infinite Horizon', takes this a little further saying:
          "To bless someone is, through some word, gesture or ritual, to make that person aware of three things:
* the goodness of the original creation where God said that it was 'good, very good'
* that God experiences the same delight and pleasure in him or her that God experienced with Jesus at his baptism when he said: 'This is my beloved child in whim I take delight'.
* that we who are giving the blessing, recognize that goodness and take that delight in the other person."

If we take this definition of 'blessing', it is not about whether the person deserves it or not, or even if the person giving has the right credentials. This understanding of 'blessing' acknowledges the wonder of each and every creation and the goodness inherent within. In a world that it so quick to let us know if we are other, not enough, not deserving - we could do with a culture of those who can learn to bless. If it is good enough for our pets, it is good enough for us. We don't need to create some special annual service to share this blessing. It is an every day thing. It is contagious. It is simple. It is unique to each of us, but it takes practice to go against the flow of the world. 

Blessings to you this day!
May you know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
May you know that you are loved.
May you be a delight and be delighted.

No comments:

Post a comment