February 4, 2008

St. Blase

Of course yesterday was not the feast of St. Blase, because it was Sunday. But we offered the traditional blessing of throats anyway. I must have uttered these words a few hundred times yesterday:
Through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat, and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This is a really popular thing; people were even coming at the end of Mass on purpose to get it. On the one hand, it seems strange; why should a little blessing on the throat (along with the arcana of the crossed candles) be such a big deal in comparison with, say, the communion with the inner life of Trinity we are offered in the Eucharist? I think that's why things like this annoy some clergy. On the other hand, somehow it really speaks to people.

Maybe we don't preach and teach enough on the mystery of illness in the Christian life. God knows that there are enough physically and mentally ill people out there to hear it. Perhaps it's because we are uncomfortable with the assertion that illness has something to do with the fallen state of the world. And that's a hard thing to manage pastorally; it's not that I'm sick right now because of my sins in particular, but it's because of the mystery of sin in the world that we suffer in our sickness. To someone (or ourselves!) who is already sick, not at their best, and perhaps worried about how they stand before the Lord, that can be a hard distinction to notice and embrace.

Certainly in a society that seems to be so manically bent on denying death and aging, we might do well to preach more on the mystery of illness.


Barb, sfo said...

I think the blessings are a very comforting thing. And I wonder if the same thing has anything to do with the popularity of Ash Wednesday, which around here gets better church attendance than the average Sunday.

I'm sure it has always been this way, but I'm also sure that we really feel a lack of acknowledging blessings of any kind in our world today, and these occasions in church are filling in a gap we might not even realize we feel.

Charles of New Haven said...

So true, Barb. So many times even our religious lives are so stripped down. I had the people do the whole candlemas procession for Presentation last Saturday, and they were like, wow, we never did this before. But I said, why not? It's beautiful. So often we function instead of flourish.

It's a blessed world if we care to notice! Thanks as always, and have a blessed Lent!

ben in demver said...

The priest at my parish gave the blessing of throats to the entire congregation at once at the end of Mass Sunday.

Of course doing it this way, there was no real place for the crossed candles.