To Bless and To Be Blessed

“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the hart of wonder.”

This is one of many exquisite blessings from a most beloved book that was a gift from a dear friend, To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O’Donohue.

I often open this book when I want to offer Mr. O’Donohue’s sublimely-resplendent words to someone who is grieving, celebrating, or transitioning through a significant life threshold. It contains blessings not only for mothers, fathers and the elderly, but also for farmers, addicts, nurses and prisoners. There are blessings for animals, water, air and fire. It offers blessings for expected events like a birthday, marriage, new home or retirement, as well as for more unusual situations like passing a graveyard, for work, or for someone awakening to the trauma of their past.

The Lenten-reflection word for today is, Bless. In his book, Mr. O’Donohue reflects on the lost art of the blessing, and presents a compelling case for its necessity in our lives:

“While our culture is all gloss and pace on the outside, within it is too often haunted and lost. The commercial edge of so-called ‘progress’ has cut away a huge region of human tissue and webbing that has held us in communion with one another. We have fallen out of belonging. Consequently, when we stand before crucial thresholds in our lives, we have no rituals to protect, encourage and guide us as we cross over into the unknown. For such crossings, we need to find new words.”

The word blessing comes from the Old English: blestian, meaning to sanctify or consecrate with blood. Initially recoiling at the thought, I read further in O’Donohue’s explanation:

“It is interesting that though the word blessing sounds abstract, a thing of the word and the air, in its original meaning it was vitally connected to the life force.”

Blood, as in the source of life — for all of us. This insight shed a completely new light on how I understand what it really means to receive a blessing, as well as to be a blessing to another. In the written or spoken honoring of the deep-calling-unto-deep connection with another, we bless, and are blessed. And, in so doing, O’Donohue posits, tangible transformation takes place:

“I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew.”

And so, I offer, from Mr. O’Donohue’s eloquence, a blessing for you and for me, upon entering a new day:

“May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,

Clear in word,

Gracious in awareness,

Courageous in thought,

Generous in love.”

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