So it was for once a beautiful morning, and I needed silence as I drove to work, needed silence for something. And I drove along happily, doing – something. At first I was not quite sure what that something was. I mean, I had a shrewd idea it was something prayerful, and active. It took a bit of careful self ovservation, but in the end I caught myself out. I was looking at the hedgerows and doing something. Loving them, certainly but … ah, I was blessing them.
Blessing is something the modern church has made a somewhat circumscribed activity, and I can see why. It is very powerful. It would be highly inappropriate to have people blessing other people if those people were doing really bad things, and the pressure might sometimes be on to do just that. As a result, the laity are no longer much encouraged to think of blessing. (They used to do it: parents used to bless children, masters, servants, and farmers, fields and trees. Pretty much stopped now. The only thing the lay still are encouraged to bless is meals and diners.) But it is a beautiful thing to do, blessing.
And I was doing it before I realised it. I was driving along, calling down all the good things God is and offers on the hogweed, the last-blooming dog roses, the chaffinches and goldfinches and dunnocks in flight.
It was quite lovely, despite the ever-present heart-ache of transience and death. I have both been blessed, and offered blessings (in another denomination to my current one, with different rules). It always moves me profoundly, which ever side I find myself on, perhaps because it can be given or received, but not, as it were, self-inflicted. It is always a gift, God’s sheer grace in action.
I think, I hope, the circumscription of the church does not extend to offering blessing to the non-human world. I equally hope we could come to think a little more about blessing, because it is not thanksgiving, nor yet intercession, though it has elements of both. Also,like all prayer, it contains a promise: I have blessed you in God’s name, and now I am bound to act out towards you his love and protection. Blessing is a thing in itself, which is why I love the old Hebrew format which offers intensification as explanation: ‘In blessing, I will bless you.’