Warning, this is a real ramble of thoughts
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me bless his holy name ( psalm 103)
Read psalm 103 at morning prayer today and found my mind wondering about blessings. I think I am being prompted to rethink what I really believe (deep down in the part of me where things really matter).
It all started last week at the chaplains meeting at school. We were discussing what to do about the Easter communion at school. The last day of term falls on Maundy Thursday again. It means all of the local clergy will want to go to the Chrism mass at the cathedral to reaffirm their vows. There are over 500 children at school, not all of them receive communion, half of them come to the front for a blessing. It takes a long time to individually bless with any meaning that amount of children so we have always had at least three priests there. This year, it may have to be different so the vicar turns to the lay chaplains and says that’s not a problem, you have no objections to blessing do you? And that was the end of the debate.
But not the end of the debate in my head. Especially as I have just finished reading the last chapter on the practice of pronouncing blessings in Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, ‘An altar in the world’.
Why on earth did I think that only priests could bless things? It is so hierarchical. When I was first ordained there was part of me that was hugely reluctant to pronounce formal blessings. Where did I get the idea that I could do this? All those feelings of not being good enough began to surface. To pronounce a blessing on something was to see it from God’s perspective and I know that I am really not that important.
Barbara makes a good point in the chapter that we learn all about blessing by doing it. ‘Practice itself will teach you what you know. Start by throwing blessings around and the chances are you will start noticing all kinds of things you never noticed before.’ If I had being doing this before I was ordained I would have been so much more……practised at seeing God in everything. Generally people don’t do enough blessing. Why? because they think that only clergy can bless, because they think that they are not holy enough, not good enough.
Things are already holy because they are of God. I’m sure by blessing I am not making them any more holier. What am I doing? Is it a recognising of the holiness of something?
And why is it that when you bless something, it seems that you are blessed. And why do I sometimes feel nothing at all and at others I am bowled over by the presence of God.
So I am coming down on the side that anyone can bless whether they are authorised or not.