Let Us Bless Each Other
In John O'Donohue's book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us, he talks about who can bless, and says, "Wherever one person takes another into the care of their heart, they have the power to bless. He talks about kindness, too, as a blessing. "Perhaps we bless one another all the time, without even realizing it," he says.
He also says that a place may bless us.
When you are in a certain place, great love or kindness happens; it imprints itself on the ether of the place. When we pass there, hungry and needy in spirit, that loving imprint shines on us like an icon.
"Who has the power to bless?" asks O'Donohue, and answers:
This question is not be be answered simply by the description of one's institutional status or membership. But perhaps there are deeper questions hidden here. What do you bless with? Or where do you bless from? When you bless another, you first gather yourself; you reach below your surface mind and personality, down to the deeper source within you - namely, the soul. Blessing is from soul to soul. And the key to who you are is your soul.
The short answer to who can bless is: anyone, everyone. O'Donohue also says, "Wherever one person takes another into the care of their heart, they have the power to bless. There are things we never do, simply because it never occurs to us that we can do them. To bless someone is to offer a beautiful gift."
I don't know if you've read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson but there is a scene at the very end when the Reverend Ames blesses Jack Boughton and I think it's about the most powerful thing I've ever read. I won't quote from the book, but I like to mention it every chance I get, and this seemed a good one for it.
The following poem is from Marge Piercy's book of the same title, The Art of Blessing the Day.
The Art of Blessing the Day
by Marge Piercy
This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your plashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.
This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.
This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.
This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.
This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let's not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.
The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends'
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.
But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree
of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.
Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can't bless it, get ready to make it new.
Bless whatever you can today, the small, the insignificant. It's both an art and a discipline. So let us compress our attention, savor, let us love.
This next blessing is from a book called, Knitting into the Mystery, which is about contemplative knitting and which I like because it begins with sunlight, but doesn't overlook the rain.
May the blessing of light be on you,
light without and light within
and light inside the darkness within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon you
and warm your heart till it glows,
like a great peat fire, so that strangers may come
and warm themselves; and that friends may come.
And may the light shine out of the eyes of you,
like a candle set in the windows of a house,
bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft, sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit so that the seedlings of light
in your shadow may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
And may the blessing of the great rains be on you,
that they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool,
and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing for the earth be on you—
the great round earth
who carries all; the great round earth
whose suffering has already become radiant.
May you ever have a kindly greeting for people
you pass as you are going along the roads.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly,
your kin and all creatures.
And here is a quotation worth keeping, remembering. The thought that we, too, may ask to be blessed.
I recognize that even in the valley of the shadow of my own tangled thoughts there is something holy and unutterable seeking to restore my soul... I always stop and touch the coarse gray bark of one particular tree with my hand or cheek, which I suppose is a way of blessing it for being so strong and beautiful. Who knows how long it has been standing there wearing its foliage like a crown even though a part of it is dying? Because of that quality of sheer endurance one morning I found myself touching it not to bless it, but to ask its blessing, so that I myself might move toward old age and death with something like its stunning grace and courage.
- Frederick Buechner
This last one is from The Art of Being Alone by Tanikawa Shuntaro and is perhaps a form of self-blessing. Simple words we can invoke each morning, these words that come out of a dream and keep you from harm: good morning!
One morning last week I was out for a walk a little earlier than usual because I had a 10am library shift. As I turned the corner onto the path by the utility corridor I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the pink sky. It reflected onto the trees, so that some of them also appeared pink. I myself was bathed in the pink light. It felt like a blessing, a gorgeous glowing benediction. A holiness, a colour out of a painting by Piero della Francesca. The morning, I often think, is a blessing unto us all.
A Morning Takes Shape
by Tanikawa Shuntaro
What has tormented my mind since last evening
appeared in a dream like an endless barren land
Somewhere in the dream my alarm clock rang
My dog was wagging his tail beyond the glass doors
The sunlight shot sideways at a glass on the table
There it was, it was morning
The morning was bright that day, too
Its light bared me to all the corners of my soul
I could no longer fool myself
I said, "Good morning!"
I felt the words keep me from harm
The morning was there
Cold water rushed out of the faucet
The smell of miso soup filled the room
People were intent on walking in all the walks of the country
I saw the morning take shape
surer than happiness, brighter than hope