When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’
This week as we continue in the Way of Love for the season of Lent, we consider the spiritual practice of ‘blessing.’
The word “bless” shows up quite frequently in ordinary speech. Next time you sneeze, someone around you might somewhat reflexively say, “Bless you.” How did that practice come to be?
One story is that the practice began around the 6th century when the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe. People knew that a sneeze could be an early symptom of the disease so when someone sneezed, it was a prayer for good health to say, “God bless you.”
At other times, you might be asked to ‘say a blessing’ for a meal. It is a prayer of gratitude that there is food on the table.
When we take on the spiritual practice of blessing, however, it doesn’t need to be restricted to times when someone sneezes or before a meal. Blessing can happen in any encounter with others.
The poet John O’Donohue dedicated his life to retrieving the lost art form and practice of blessing. By blessing, he meant, “words that create a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, and strengthen.”
A friend of mine tries to end every conversation whether it be with a family member, a coworker, a neighbor, or a friend with such a ‘circle of light.’ She says her goodbyes along with an accompanying word of affirmation or encouragement. She blesses them.
When we take on the spiritual practice of blessing we will look for opportunities to bless those we meet. What a gift we can offer!