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Reflection Title: 
The Wonder of Blessing
Reflection Content: 

On the eve of the Sabbath in most Jewish homes from the time of Jesus to the present, several simple acts bind those who have gathered together. As the sun drops below the horizon, candles are lit. A blessing is spoken over the gift of the light and over the bread and wine that sustain us and bring joy to life. Gratitude is expressed for “having reached this day.” And then, with ease of movement that comes from the tradition of generations, the father or mother or elder moves slowly around the table placing her hands on the head of each child and praying the benediction: “May God bless you and keep you. May God make his face to shine upon you and give you his peace.” The name of the child flows lovingly off the tongue, finding its natural place in the midst of the blessing. Christians have often heard these words as the final blessing when they gather for worship. Some have heard these simple words as the hands of a loving one was placed on their head, just before sleep, perhaps, or at a time of departure, of marriage, birth, or dying. They are words of regard that enlarge our heart and deepen our sense of the wonder of being. Words that open a wellspring of meaning, unspoken.

Story Title: 
The Kingdom of Heaven
Story Content: 

They brought children to him to lay his hands on them with prayer. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” And he laid his hands on the children, and went his way.

—Matthew 19:13–14

Contemporary Story Title: 
Belonging
Contemporary Story Content: 

John O’Donohue (1956–2008), former Irish Catholic priest, poet, author, philosopher, and lecturer known for his work in popular Celtic spirituality invites us to a “fresh well”:

“It would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing.  The word blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable.

“ . . . 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 one another.  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.

“ . . . In the parched deserts of modernity a blessing can be like discovery of a fresh well.  It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another.  I believe each of us can bless.”

—John O’Donohue, (1956-2008). To Bless the Space Between Us.

Artwork Title: 
Blessed to Serve
Artwork Content: 

Mikhail Nesterov, (1862–1942) the precursor of Russian Symbolist art, conceived the cycle devoted to St. Sergius of Radonezh (circa 1314–1392) during his travels through Italy and France. Inspired by Jules Bastien-Lepage’s Joan d’Arc (1879), Nesterov decided to execute a painting devoted to one of the most significant Russian Orthodox Saints. His cycle of artworks consists of fifteen pieces depicting key moments from the life of Venerable Sergius, whose baptismal name was Bartholomew. The artist imagined the founder of The Trinity Lavra (monastery) as a young boy awakening to a vocation of service where we come to know him as a spiritual leader and monastic reformer. Christ Blessing Bartholomew depicts the mystical appearance of Christ to the adolescent Bartholomew. The moment of blessing unfolds against a meager Russian landscape with grey village log houses under the cold autumnal sky. The ashberry tree with fallen leaves is juxtaposed to a fragile figure of the boy, who is looking into the depth of Christ’s eyes recognizing that he is a chosen one. The figure of Christ is strong in contrast to the almost levitating Bartholomew. Only the geese in the right corner (the folkloric messengers of the eternal), reminding the viewer that miracles, the awakening to wonder, happen in everyday life. 

Question Title: 
Am I blessed?
Question Content: 

The Lamb

Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

Gave thee life and bid thee feed,

By the stream & o’er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,

Softest clothing wooly bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

making all the vales rejoice!

Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

 

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,

For he called himself a Lamb:

He is meek & he is mild,

He became a little child:

I a child & thou a lamb

We are called by his name.

Little Lamb God bless thee.

Little Lamb God bless thee.

—William Blake, (1757-1827)

Blessed by Name

Have you ever met child with a hole in her heart? A child that had never been blessed, or knew what it meant to live as a blessed one? A child that feared he was not welcome in the world? Were you that child? Are there children you know, children you meet who struggle with this particular emptiness? Do you have words of blessing or gestures of blessing? The ancients cultivated the capacity for giving and receiving blessing. For them, calling the name of a person evoked blessing. It deepened the wonder, the fragility of life.

Music Content: 

Psalm 131

“Psalm 131.” John Michael Talbot, Troubadour for the Lord, Sparrow 1996. Track 17.

 

Gospel

The Orlando Consort, a medieval music ensemble, and Perfect Houseplants, a jazz ensemble, set themselves the task of composing a mass setting based on the L’homme armé melody, a melody used as a cantus firmus for mass settings by many composers of the High Middle Ages and Renaissance. The various movements of this modern mass setting use compositional methods, improvisational techniques and harmonic language idiomatic to both styles to create a remarkable fusion of forms separated by several centuries. (Also featured at 6. in section 3.)

 

“Gospel.” Dudley Philips, Huw Warren, Martin France, Extempore II: A Modern Mass for the Feast of St. Michael based on the medieval melody L’homme armé, Donald Grieg, baritone, Orlando Consort, Perfect Houseplants, Harmoni mundi 2002. Track 10.

 

The Prayer of the Children

 

“The Prayer of the Children.” Kurt Bestor, Baylor University Men’s Choir, 2013.

 
Layout: 
Landscape
Image Theme: 
Image Thumbnail: 
Image: 
Image Summary: 

Christ Blessing Bartholomew, (St. Sergii of Radonezh), 1890. Mikhail Nesterov, 1862–1942. 

Story Audio: 
Contemporary Story Audio: 

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