Spiritual August Report
What does it mean when we bless something, or to say we are blessed? We are all familiar with many blessings – food, homes, various objects as crosses and medals, and even personal blessings. What do these blessings mean? Is the blessing of a house or car an “extra insurance policy?” Is it safer than an “unblessed” house or car? This would be bordering on superstition.
To be blessed or to have an object blessed we are presenting that person or thing to God so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they would be set apart for God’s purposes. For example, a cross on a chain or a bracelet is a piece of jewelry, but after it is blessed, it is set apart for a different purpose than just to decorate our bodies or clothing. It will still be worn like jewelry, but the purpose for which it is worn has changed, it will now point to Christ and his death and resurrection. Today blessings are done either by the sprinkling of holy water or by making the sign of the cross. Originally blessings were done by words and formulas. Blessing is a declaration that something is good or sacred or a gift of God. To bless then means to see things as they really are, as all coming from God and as a sign of His Presence among us.
One blessing we do many times is the blessing of ourselves by making the sign of the cross over our self. It is one of the oldest gestures of our faith and is written about in the second century. Originally, the cross was made on the forehead with the hand or finger to keep away demons. In the fifth century, monks made the sign of the cross on the forehead, shoulders, and breast as a sign of our complete consecration to God. In the sixth century, it was given a Trinitarian interpretation against a heresy of the time. The three fingers represented the Trinity and the two fingers the two natures in Christ. This is how we still make the sign of the cross today in the Byzantine tradition.
In the month of August, we celebrate two great feast days in the Byzantine Church, The Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, and the Dormition or Falling Asleep of Mary, the Mother of God. Because the Feast of the Transfiguration occurs during the harvest season, in some places vineyards and grapes are blessed, and in others fresh fruits, to represent the “first-fruits” of the harvest. It is an expression of thanksgiving to God for his guiding hand during the growing season.
The Feast of Transfiguration on August 6th is a fitting time to celebrate the manifestation of God’s presence, and to give thanks for His presence in our lives. Fruit, the symbol of the good things of life, is blessed to become the sign of God’s grace in life, and of His presence among us. This blessing is a sign of the final transfiguration of all things in Christ. It signifies the ultimate flowering and fruitfulness of all creation in God's Paradise, where all will be transformed by the glory of the Lord.
On August 15th we bring flowers to church from our gardens on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Holy tradition tells us that all the Apostles, except for Saint Thomas, were transported mystically to Jerusalem to be with the Mother of God and to be present at her burial. When the Apostle Thomas arrived, the Apostles opened the tomb so that he could kiss her farewell. As the tomb was opened, the body of the Most Pure Virgin was missing, and the cave was filled with flowers and the sweet fragrance of Paradise.
To have an object or ourselves blessed is not superstitious but is another way God can touch our lives. It shows that all of us and all of God’s Creation, is set apart for a higher purpose, and to acknowledge that all creation comes from God. It is a way to give thanks and honor the Creator of all things.
Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest John S. Kachuba