A friend asked me recently how blessings “work”; what happens when I give a blessing? Rather than answer with just theory, I felt it was more authentic to give a more phenomenological perspective. She suggested that it might be useful to blog my response. The question came up in a discussion of whether an acolyte or deacon asking to be blessed before she performs one of her altar duties was just asking for the priest’s permission.

I said that, from my experience of giving blessings, they have something of the sense of “the Divine in me acknowledges the Divine in you”, so they’re kind of an invitation or a gate.

I’d imagine that if it were a “highly realised person” (as they might say in the Indic traditions) or a Saint (as we might say) giving the blessing then that invitation might itself be quite a strong experience of awakening for the person receiving the blessing. Sadly, that’s not our situation šŸ™‚

I want to acknowledge the not-Self energy present in apostolic succession though, the not-earned channel of Divine presence that (theologically) is the reality of priesthood and (phenomenologically) seems to be present in sacramental actions of various sorts. So if the priest and the person receiving the blessing are open to it, that same energy is present even in a blessing coming from a not-Saint, like me.

In the same way that when someone makes a confession, it’s not me who listens, it’s God (that’s the theological reason why the seal of confession is what it is) – when I bless, I am a gate through which the Divine blesses us (me too, it seems).

So, why bless an acolyte as she is about to begin her work at the altar? Not as a giving of permission, it seems to me, as a mutual welcoming into the Presence, as a reminder of the reality of the Presence as we create the space between people. To me its the use of sacerdotal energy to remind both the priest and the acolyte of why they’re both there.

In writing this blog entry, I also don’t want to restrict this to what priests can do. To me that would be to deny the sacramental character of manifestation – which in the octave of the Assumption of the Most Holy Sophia seems like an imprudent thing to do.

Once, we commonly blessed each other – when we met, when we parted, when we began a new enterprise, at weddings, at births. Somehow we’ve dropped the practice. I think that’s a pity. I love it when someone asks me to bless them, I feel privileged to be asked to participate in both someone’s life and flow of Divine energy.

Please ask for a blessing if you think of it and don’t hesitate to explicitly bless those around you. If you need a little help, here’s an old Celtic blessing I used recently. Use joyfully and often!

May the blessing of light be on you –
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great fire.

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