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Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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Catechesis

Blessings Help Us to Grow

Blessings are called “sacramentals” because they prepare us to receive the grace of the sacraments and help us to grow to be more like Christ (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1670).

These blessings are drawn from the Church’s liturgy and from the Book of Blessings. They consist of prayer, Scripture, and sometimes a special ritual sign (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1668).

People are accustomed to seeing bishops, priests, and deacons blessing objects or persons in the name of the Church. Indeed, “the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1669), often with the participation of the local parish community gathered in prayer.

Whenever an ordained minister is present, he should be called upon to give the blessing. However, there are other blessings, like the ones contained in [Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers], that can be prayed by anyone who has been baptized, “in virtue of the universal priesthood, a dignity they possess because of their baptism and confirmation” (Book of Blessings, no. 18).

The blessings given by laypersons in this book are exercised because of their special office, such as parents on behalf of their children. Right after telling his disciples to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Jesus instructs them to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:28). St. Paul echoes the Lord’s command when he exhorts the Romans to “bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them” (Rom 12:14). St. Peter urges that each time we are on the receiving end of evil, we should return “a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Pt 3:9). This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless” (no. 1669; see Gn 12:2; Lk 6:28; Rom 12:14; 1 Pt 3:9). Like the Lord into whom they have been baptized, parents should bless and pray for their children.

Each one of us should remember the sick and those who suffer. Each time we gather around the family table, we should bless God and the food he has given us. On special occasions, we will observe the traditions of the season, sanctifying by prayer and blessing all the seasons of grace that God has given to us.

This article is an excerpt taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2007) vii-viii.

Copyright © 2007, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington DC. All rights reserved.

The Epiphany of the Lord

epiphanyThe Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is the Christian observance that celebrates the public manifestation of the Jesus’ kingship to the world when the Magi visit and adore him. In the Gospel of Luke, an angel of the Lord reveals Jesus as “savior,” “Messiah,” and “Lord” to the shepherds when Jesus is born and laid in a manger (see Luke 2). But the visit of the Magi reveals another facet of Jesus’ destiny—his kingship.

In Matthew, chapter two, the Magi announce to King Herod the purpose of their visit. Arriving in Jerusalem to seek the Messiah, they ask Herod, King of Judea, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” Departing Jerusalem and following the star’s movement, they find the child Jesus and his mother, Mary, in Bethlehem. Joyfully, they prostrate themselves before the King and present to the newborn King gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Through this prophetic event, the kingship of Jesus is revealed, while the gifts brought by the Magi prophecy the type of kingship Jesus would have.

While tradition holds that the Magi were three kings or wise men, Scripture is silent on the number of kings who arrived to give homage to the Lord, as well as the background of the Magi (kings, astronomers, etc.), and their names. Nonetheless, while extensive details are absent in Sacred Scriptures, Christian tradition holds that there were three wise men, named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

Current tradition in the United States often sees families using chalk to mark the top of a door post of their home with the initials of the three kings and the current Epiphany year. For example, for Epiphany 2017, a family would mark “20 + C + M + B + 17.” This chalking of the lintel is generally accompanied by a short ritual blessing of the house.

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