The threshold between living in a state of blessedness and one of curse is the place of awareness and choice. When we become caught up in the rushed tempo of modern life, it becomes extremely difficult to take the time to pause, to be aware, to listen attentively in order to make the right choices and gratefully to receive the blessings offered us. We need to become present and attentive enough, moment by moment, to recognize the blessings that constantly surround us.
Generally, we do recognize and celebrate the great, clear blessings, such as the birth of a baby, the wedding of loved ones, personal achievements or the success of an undertaking. These are peaks of blessing, as it were, but they do not carry us through the valleys of our daily existence. Here, we must choose to live and walk in grace and blessing or under the curse of anger and resentment. In making the choice for blessing, we awaken our capacity to receive blessing and, in turn, to bless others.
The word ‘blessing’ in Latin is benedicere meaning, literally, good or well (bene) speaking (dictio) – speaking well or saying good things. Saying good things to, or of, someone is the most significant affirmation we can offer them. A true blessing, however, is more than a word of praise or admiration of their talents. It goes deeper; to the very heart of a person. It affirms their being beloved – they are Beloved of God and beloved in your sight. Henri Nouwen describes this blessing well:
The blessings that we gve to each other are expressions of the blessing that rests on us from all eternity. It is the deepest affirmation of our true self.
It is not enough to be chosen. We also need the ongoing blessing that allows us to hear in an ever new way that we belong to a loving God who will never leave us alone, but will remind us always that we are guided by love on every step of our lives.*
There are, essentially, only two voices speaking as we traverse our days in this world – that of Love, Truth, and Peace, the voice of God, and that of Hatred, Lies, and Fear, the voice of the enemy of God. We choose to hear the Father of Love or the father of Lies – the voice of blessings or the voice of curses. The latter is loud, noisy, clamoring for attention and, in its forceful persistence, its lies may be easy to believe. However, it calls forth only darkness, destruction and death. The voice of blessing never forces itself and yet it constantly is there, true and deep, calling forth light and life. We are surrounded with gentle reminders of :
“…that beautiful, strong, but hidden, voice of the One who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.”**
Knowing you are chosen and a “blessed one” in the eyes of God, enables you to walk through this world and offer blessing to others. As His blessing heals our own brokenness, we can allow it to flow naturally to the brokenness in others who yearn for a reminder that they too are uniquely created, of great value, and beloved by God.
The Hebrew word for blessing is bracha – ברכה. The Scriptures are as filled with brachot as a pomegranate is filled to bursting with its glowing seeds. One of the most powerful blessings is spoken to this day over the people of Israel by the kohanim (priests) – the Aaronic Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26):
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.
Saying a blessing in recognition of the many blessings of God [YHWH – HaShem] is a deeply ingrained Jewish practice. Every Shabbat evening a husband speaks blessing over his wife and parents over their children. A hundred times a day Orthodox Jews proclaim blessing of the Holy One, blessed be He. God is blessed, for example, for His provision of bread, wine, food, fruit, for the first blossoms of Spring, for the new day, on seeing the ocean, and even, the most difficult to say, on hearing the tragic news of a death. Baruch Dayan Emet. “Blessed be the True Judge.” *** The conversations of Jewish people, whether secular or religious, are peppered with, Baruch HaShem! “Praise God!” or, literally, “Bless the Name!”
Another Hebrew word from the same root as bracha is livroch – to kneel or bend the knee. Kneeling is a form of submission, e.g., in honor of royalty. Knights of old knelt before the king or queen to receive the status of knighthood – of service to the monarch. We too need to be in a position of yielding to our King in order to receive the blessing He desires to bestow. Kneeling also requires a cessation of movement, of walking. We need to pause in stillness, as in prayer, to receive a blessing.
Our world today is dark with the curses of war, violence, hatred and misery. It longs to hear the voice of blessing and truth. When spoken, it can bring down fortresses of falsity. We must not choose negativity, helplessness or indifference. These betray our true identity as chosen and beloved of God. Every word of truth, hope and encouragement is a blessing spoken. It has an effect and carries the possibility of healing and transformation.
Please, let us always remember the voice of the One who says, “You are My beloved.”
May we receive the tenderness and power conveyed in the love these words hold. Then, as we go forward, may we be attentively present at the threshold of every moment in order to receive its blessing and to pass on blessing to others.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Life of the Beloved, 59
- Ibid.; 66
- Lewis Glinert, The Joys of Hebrew, 28