What does a blessing accomplish?

David Arnow Jewish

Blessings help us maintain a sense of perspective — that we are neither as great nor as small as we sometimes feel. We can learn a lot from the biblical passage that provides the basis for reciting the Blessing after Meals (Grace).* The Israelites are about to enter a bounteous “land with streams and springs . . . wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates . . . olive trees and honey . . . When you eat, and are satisfied, you are to thank Adonai your God . . . (Deuteronomy 8:8-10). The Bible continues with a warning. “. . . [B]eware lest your heart become haughty and you forget the Lord your God — who took you out from the land of Egypt . . . and you say to yourselves, ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me.’” This will surely bring destruction. In the story of the Exodus, Pharaoh acts as if he were God; he and his country pay the ruinous price. According to the prophet Ezekiel, Pharaoh says, “My Nile is my own. I made it for myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).* When we forget our limits, when we act as if we were God, heaven help us! But blessings also remind us that we are not worthless creatures as we sometimes see ourselves. A Hasidic teaching puts it this way:* “Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into the one or the other according to his needs. In his right pocket should be the words, ‘For my sake the world was created’ (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5) and in his left: ‘I am earth and ashes’” (Genesis 18:27). Pausing to recite a blessing not only gives voice to gratitude, but helps keep our ego the right size, not too big, but not too small either.

Mary C. Boys Christian

Blessing “accomplishes” nothing measurable. It is, however, a means of opening our eyes, of hallowing our everyday activities, and of expanding our consciousness. “All our salvation,” wrote the late monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton, “begins on the level of common and natural and ordinary things.”*

On some occasions, a blessing comes as a challenge, such as the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the community at Rome: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14).

We bless God, in awe at the beauty of creation. In the memorable line of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

We bless God, mindful of the gifts we are given. We pray before meals, “Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts, which we have received through your bounty through Christ our Lord.”

We bless God, conscious of our frailty. In the words attributed to an anonymous fisherman of Brittany: “Dear God, be good to me; the sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.”

Catholic Christians have a tradition of blessing both people and things, from the sick to homes to animals to vineyards. Upon entering a church, we bless ourselves with “holy” water—water that has been ritually blessed—as a remind of our Baptism. In the Eucharist (or Mass), we ask God’s blessing on bread and wine, which come to our table both because of divine goodness and human effort:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the bread we offer you:
fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the wine we offer you:
fruit of the vine and work of human hands,
it will become our spiritual drink.

Muhammad Shafiq Muslim

Blessing God invokes a sense of humility with gratefulness. Egoism and arrogance is a curse. God cursed Iblis (the Satan, also called Shaytaan) because of his arrogance. God raised him to a high spiritual state where he joined the ranks of angels (The Bible described him as a fallen angel.) but he refused obedience with arrogance. Blessing God reminds us to be humble before Him and His humanity as well. The Qur’an speaks of the story of Pharaoh and Moses. Pharaoh is a sign of arrogance, denial and tyranny. Moses is a sign of humbleness, obedience and submission to God. At the end of the story, Moses and the Israelites are blessed and Pharaoh and his people are drowned (2:49-50, 3:11, 7:104-106 and in many other places).

Blessing God reminds us to be thankful for all that God has given us. The Qur’an says: “ THE MOST GRACIOUS has imparted this Qur’an [unto man]. He has created man. He has imparted unto him articulate thought and speech. [At His behest] the sun and the moon run their appointed courses; [before Him] prostrate them­selves the stars and the trees. And the skies has He raised high, and has devised [for all things] a measure, so that you [too, O men,] might never transgress the measure [of what is right]; weigh, therefore, [your deeds] with equity, and cut not the measure short! And the earth has He spread out for all living beings, with fruit thereon, and palm trees with sheathed clusters [of dates], and grain growing tall on its stalks, and sweet-smelling plants. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? (55:1-13). The Qur’an says in another place: “If ye would count up the favors of Allah, never would ye be able to number them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (16:18).

Blessing God reminds that we are trustees of God, and all that is on the earth and beyond is a trust of God into our hands. It is our duty to protect the earth, its resources and environment from any misuse and abuse. Any violation of the trust may revoke the blessing. As the Qur’an says: “ART THOU NOT aware that God has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with [an inner] truth? He can, if He so wills, do away with you and bring forth a new mankind [in your stead]” (14:19).

Blessing of God is a confession that we as people are dependent on God’s mercy and blessing. When we invoke His blessing we expect His blessing to increase. The relationship between God and humanity can be described as a relationship between parent and child. When sons or daughters approach their parents, they often begin by praising the parents for all they have done for them. The parents in return shower their mercy upon their son or daughter, then ask the child to tell them what more they can do. The Qur’an says that God says to humanity: “So remember Me, and I shall remember you; and be grateful unto Me, and deny Me not” (2:152). The Qur’an says that God says, “If you are grateful to Me, I will add more favors upon you”(14:7).

Blessing of God also reminds us to be good to those who are not good toward us. It may be a challenge at times, but it is praiseworthy in the sight of God. Many times we disobey God and we break His commandments, but He forgives and continues to bless us. The Qur’an says: “Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel [Evil] with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!” (41:34). The Qur’an tells the story of Abu Bakr, one of whose poor relatives had accused Aisha (Abu Bakr’s daughter and the wife of the Prophet) of adultery. Abu Bakr stopped his assistance to the poor relative in revenge. The Qur’an addressed Abu Bakr, admonishing him: “Hence, [even if they have been wronged by slander,] let not those of you who have been graced with God’s favour and ease of life ever become remiss in helping [the erring ones among] their near of kin, and the needy, and those who have forsaken the domain of evil for the sake of God, but let them pardon and forbear. [For,] do you not desire that God should forgive you your sins, seeing that God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace?” (24:22).

Note: Translation of the Qur’anic verses and many of the Hadith translation with references were taken from; some translations of and references to the Hadith were taken from