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Mixed Blessings 17 November 2007

Posted by Dr Moose in Uncategorized.

Isn’t it strange how many ways and contexts there are in which the word blessing or blessed crops up? Maybe more often than not it can be a euphemism or a platitude. To a sneeze we reply “Bless you!” We use it to substitute for something like blasted or damned, and make the problem sound like it’s welcome. I’m not quite sure of the reasoning, unless it’s simple Bowdlerism. Possibly trying to sanctify something and bring it to the attention of the power of God. Maybe Jesus is the ultimate Blessed Nuisance – certainly in the eyes of the First Century Religious Establishment, and maybe even for ourselves and our own.

As a priest I am empowered to pronounce God’s blessing. It isn’t mine to give after all… I stand in loco Deorum. (I trust my Latin is up to scratch!) Which makes me wonder why we use oils blessed by the bishop (or should it be blessed through the agency of the bishop?) when a word uttered by the priest would do. I suspect it’s a matter of ecclesiology and a recognition of the primacy of the bishop.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had two very different offices of blessing to perform, both at relatively short notice and both slightly euphemistic in origin. One for and over a relationship in what is technically referred to as an Act of Dedication after a Civil Marriage – a most definitely desired relationship between two persons. And the other over an unwanted presence of relationship in the form of a house blessing – a request for an outpouring of God’s cleansing power and the eviction of any other-worldly and negatively-orientated presence.

In both cases they were “firsts”, if you don’t count trying to bless my previous Vicarage – and even that was more often in the form of words closer to those allegedly used by Cromwell to dismiss the Rump Parliament: “Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Interestingly enough my curacy prepared me for neither of these eventualities, despite proving of great general value.

However, I suppose I should depart from this virtual location – and head back to the more practised, but rather less-interesting, act of sermon preparation…



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