Last week for the liturgical observance of the Transfiguration of the Lord, established in the Roman calendar by Pope Callixtus III to commemorate the defeat of the Islamic invaders at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456, we used the special blessing for grapes provided for that feast day in the traditional Roman Ritual. This week, as we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have another annual blessing: of herbs, flowers and fruits.
Speaking of special days, our calendar and the custom of these seasonal blessings binds us into the rhythm of the passing of the years and the changing ages of our own lives of grace, until we come to the great moment when we pass over to judgment and eternity.
On Epiphany we bless chalk with which we mark our lintels for the blessing of our homes. For St John the Evangelist we bless wine, surely because his enemies tried to poison him, and when he blessed the cup the poison crawled out like a snake. We bless bonfires on the Vigil of St John the Baptist, surely because of its connection to light at the time of year when the days, like John, must decrease.
On the Nativity of Mary, we bless seeds and seedlings, because we are mindful of the next year’s preparations and eventual harvest. I once spent several hours blessing pigs and horses on the Feast of Anthony the Abbot.
We have blessings for things we use each day, including the common building blocks of our nourishment, so that we can be strong of body, healthy in soul, a sacral mens sana in corpore sano. Priests can bless salt, oil, bread, beer, cheese and lard, in fact any and all foodstuffs. We bless our places of work, of rest and of play. We can bless our tools and vehicles. With a little adjustment the blessing for a typewriter could be used for a computer.
Our blessing texts are often charming. The blessing for a car invokes the image of St Philip and the Ethiopian reading Holy Writ in his carriage.
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