elephant, camel, horse, etc. at St John's

elephant, camel, horse, etc. at St John's

In many places around the feast of Saint Francis (October 4) there is a Spring/Fall “blessing of animals”. September has, for many become a “Creation Season” that this concludes. My invitation is that in the comments section below you can describe your practice of blessing animals, what works well for you, what does not work well, you can place your/a prayer of blessing of animals, symbolic gestures, sprinkling practice there. We might comment (constructively) on each other’s prayers and practices.

Certainly in the midst of Anglican discussions (often now with far more heat than light) about who and what can or cannot be blessed and why, I have noticed a general confusion about what “blessing” actually is in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. At heart of the blessing tradition there is the Jewish Berrakah. We bless something/someone by blessing God. We bless by giving thanks. The composition of such a blessing (my copyrighted mnemonic) is:

Praise
Proclaim
Petition
Praise

You can see this configuration in the Eucharistic Prayer, in the prayer for blessing the water at baptism, in the blessing over a couple in a wedding,…

stjns2bThe modern declaratory “blessing” at the end of a Eucharist is a much different construction, and a much more recent innovation. Communion of the people originally concluded the Eucharist. As numbers grew and formal buildings became more ornate, so did the conclusion with prayer being added. In the Middle Ages the bishop blessed the people as he walked through the congregation at the conclusion. By the Reformation the bishop in many places said this “blessing” prior to leaving the sanctuary. Some priests, especially in France and Germany, imitated this Episcopal “blessing”. As fewer in the congregation received God’s blessing in receiving communion, this verbal “blessing” made up for a non-communicating Mass. With the restoration of receiving communion as the norm at the Eucharist, many rites have made the declaratory “blessing” a the conclusion of the Eucharist optional.

Photo: This was a St Francis Day blessing of the animals service I participated in in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York. (Notice the elephant, camel, horse, pony,…! :-))

Invitation: Please add your practical help, experiences, and prayers about blessing of animals in the comment section below. What do you do? What have you done? What works well? What does not? What prayer do you use?…

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