“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 held us in communion with each other. 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.” ~ John O’Donohue, Benedictus: A Book of Blessings
New words. Yes, words matter, because they have a life of their own.
Benediction is one of several key words or living intentions that arose as I reflected on words and themes for the coming year. These are words or themes I revisit, reflect on, am challenged by, and endeavor to explore and ‘live into’ as the year unfolds.
Even when I was a child, the benediction was one of my favorite parts of the Sunday church service; I could feel the energy of blessing pouring toward us and I gladly received it.
And that is exactly what benediction, at its most genuine and heartful: the powerful words and energy of blessing.
At its roots, benediction means “to speak well.” Bene- means good, or well; diction is from dicere meaning to speak (whether inside your head — your thoughts — or coming from your mouth in speech; and by extension, to write).
Speaking well. Good words. Blessing. Thus is the gift of benediction.
Now, of course, we know from more contemporary scientific research that such things as blessings and prayers … both heartfelt good-wishing prayers and the less fortunate but not infrequent ill-wishing or toxic prayers that are a form of sorcery (witting or unwitting) … these all do indeed have an effect, even from remote distances.
The sages have known this for eons, if the sacred writings and teachings are a clue, but living it is a responsibility to bless rather than curse and realizing just how often we inadvertently do the latter given the norms of culture.
Thankfully, benediction and blessing offer an opportunity … it’s a gift that costs little and keeps on giving.
“There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing,” writes John O’Donohue (ibid.).
May we intend more and more devotedly to choose words that bless, that are everyday benedictions.
May the spirit of blessing stir and awaken in you, and pour forth from you, and guide you and others to worthy horizons.
And the benediction that I loved so much as a child:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May She make Her face to shine upon you;
And be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you;
And give you peace.”
May it be so.