20 June 2009

Offering a Blessing

I have seen an Order of Service at the end of which the rubric says "The Bishop will offer his Benediction". (I don't think this is a reference to Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.)

I have been wondering what gut instinct makes me so dislike this phrase. Perhaps it is that, in customary parlance, to 'offer' a blessing means to say "Would you like me to bless you?" But the bishop concerned could argue that, as with the Sacraments, so with a sacramental like a blessing, a potential recipient can refuse the grace proferred (the manuals use the phrase obicem ponere; to put an obstacle in the way). OK. So, in a sense, a blessing is only offered. It is ineffectual unless it is received. But then, the same is true of, for example, Confirmation and Ordination. But, at least in the Provinces of Canterbury and York, Letters of Orders do not tell us that the Bishop merely offered the priesthood (We, wozname, Bishop of wozname, on such-and-such-a-day, while solemnly administering Holy Orders in Our Cathedral Church of wozname, did rightly and duly ordain wozname to the Office of Priesthood in the Church of God ...).

Why is it that such a phrase is now to be used, and what cultural baggage is it carting along with it?

10 comments:

Countrey Parson said...

Long time reader, first time comment-er...

Surely in the ordination service the ordinand demonstrates that he accepts the "offer" of the priesthood? He makes the responses to the bishop's questions and submits to kneeling down and having hands laid on him, receiving the oil and the instruments, etc.

If he ran screaming from the church, while the bishop pursued him and burly chaplains held him to the floor while hands were laid on, I don't think it would really be an ordination. In such a case we could say the priesthood was offered but not received...

BillyD said...

I think that the business of "offering a benediction" probably derives from a Protestant view of blessings as prayers. Rather than say forthrightly that the Bishop blesses the congregation, he offers it as he might offer any other prayer, asking God to bless them. In other words, I think the offer is being made to God, not the congregation.

Pastor in Valle said...

Odd, isn't it? I've never come across 'offering' a blessing, myself. But I have been asked to 'give' a Mass or 'give' confessions. Being asked to 'offer' a Mass is of course perfectly correct, and to 'give' a blessing, too. If only we could swap people's vocabulary around.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

It's simply the phrase "benediction" but not signifying the service called "Benediction [Of The Blessed Sacrament]" that rises your heckles Father!

...[musing]... I have been asked to "give a blessing" but only recollect being asked to "offer a blessing" when invited to say Grace before a meal...?!

FrKing said...

I think that this is related to those Bishops that I know who insist on saying, "MAY God the Father, God the Son,... thereby avoiding the simple decclaration that God, through the Bishop's ministry is blessing the congregation.

Chris said...

Or, even worse, the priests who refuse to bless in the second person at all.

I think Canon Lloyd has a point that those of us who appreciate Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament tend to reserve the word benediction for it, and not use it for other blessings.

If anyone in the confessional is "giving" confessions, it's surely the penitent, while the priest hears them and gives absolution.

Fr.Ogs said...

All part and parcel, surely, of the whimsy 'call-me-Dave/Bill/Bob/ktl' tendency of the present Episcopate; the 'we're-so-cuddly-everyone-MUST-like-us' front that masks a harsh and steely ruthlessness. Plus, of course, the now almost-obligatory Dissenter-friendly phraseology - the Methodist Pension-scheme being so much better-funded than the C.of E.'s - that fills the theological and liturgical vacuum with orotund periphrases: Uriah Heep and Mr. Pumblechook come to mind.

Fr.Ogs said...

All part and parcel, surely, of the whimsy 'call-me-Dave/Bill/Bob/ktl' tendency of the present Episcopate; the 'we're-so-cuddly-everyone-MUST-like-us' front that masks a harsh and steely ruthlessness. Plus, of course, the now almost-obligatory Dissenter-friendly phraseology - the Methodist Pension-scheme being so much better-funded than the C.of E.'s - that fills the theological and liturgical vacuum with orotund periphrases: Uriah Heep and Mr. Pumblechook come to mind.

Fr.Ogs said...

...I am far too unholy to be capable of bi-locating, too unholy, I would have thought, even to be able to bi-locute...

rev'd up said...

The solution is found in sending all but the Faithful from the Church after the Sermon. Church doors are open far too wide and far too long.

The early Church had it right.