Blessings established by the Church are visible signs through which the sanctification of people through Christ as well as adoration of God – both being the purpose of all other works of the Chruch – “is expressed and realized in a way typical for individual signs”.
The Church expresses this service through the Holy Spirit, through whom it also establishes all kinds of blessings, in various ways. It calls on people to adore God, invites them to pray for His protection, encourages them to earn His mercy through a holy life, carries pleadings for His blessing, so that matters which are prayed for come to a fortunate end.
Duties and services
The faithful will participate in the rite of blessing the more willingly, the more accurately they are informed about the importance of the blessings. Therefore, priests and ministers should present the significance of blessings to the faithful during the rites themselves, as well as in their preaching and catechesis. It is particularly important that the people of God are taught about the real meaning of rites and prayers used by the Church during the blessings, and that the sacred functions are free of elements that could be considered superstitious or superficial in their religious belief, and thus threaten the purity of faith.
Performing the blessings
Visible signs, often accompanying prayers, are meant to remind of the saving work of God, to show the close relationship to the main sacraments of the Church, and thus to enliven the faith of all who are present and stimulate their attention to participation in the rite.
The most common signs are: extending, raising or laying of hands, the sign of the cross, aspersion with holy water, incense burning.
- When the formula of the blessing is above all “a prayer”, the minister – as described in particular rites – extends or joins hands.
- A special place among all blessing signs is held by the imposition of hands, according to Christ’s words:
“they shall lay hands on sick people, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18).
This sign is performed by Christ in the Church and through the Church until today.
- According to an old custom of the Church, the sign of the cross is suggested frequently.
- In some rites aspersion with holy water is used. The ministers should then encourage the faithful to remember the Paschal Mystery and the renewal of baptismal vows.
- Some rites include fumigation with burnt incense, which is a sign of reverence and respect, and sometimes expresses the Churches prayer itself.