Wednesday, March 19, 2008

AND YOU THOUGHT THE GRACE THAT AUNT MATILDA SAID WAS LONG . . .

B has requested a post on the tradition of the “Blessing of the Food” which takes place in many parishes usually in the afternoon of Holy Saturday. “Being a convert, I have no history on this. I have never done it. Do you bring all the food you are going to eat for Easter dinner? Does it have to be cooked already? Do you bring it in a nice basket or a grocery bag? WHY do you do this?”

SO HERE IS A SPECIAL EMERGENCY EPISODE OF SYMBOLIC SATURDAY (Since by Saturday it will be too late!)

I hate to admit it, but this has always been one of my favorite services performed by the church though its significance is really quite trivial compared to what happens the rest of the Easter season. Remember that the faithful used to take Lenten fasting much more seriously. Most importantly there was a Triduum fast and Easter morning was the first day when meat, eggs, and other foods could be eaten again. Remember also that an absolute fast used to be in place from midnight until after you received Communion. That is where we get the word “breakfast”, we are breaking the fast.

So you can imagine that first meal after going to Easter mass was quite significant. You had not eaten in quite a spell! Now we are rejoicing because Christ is risen; indeed He is risen! All is made new! New food stuffs are brought into our homes and we are able to celebrate as we begin by satiating our hunger with the same relish (pun intended) and joy that we experienced in the Resurrection of Christ, being fed by His Word and Body. This is not just any food! This is the food of our celebratory feast! This is our new nourishment after a period of want! Our cup runneth over and we want to pay tribute to that in a special way. So we have our food of Easter blessed in a ceremonial fashion.

There are different thoughts on exactly what one should bring to the Blessing of the Foods. My Mother was a strict observer of only having exactly that with which we would break our fast (and different ethnic groups might have specific things that must be included.) Our Easter breakfast was quite simple and the basket we brought to be blessed would reflect this. There would be generally a potica (a type of coffee cake), zaludits (I may not have spelled that correctly), Easter eggs, puhanja (I’m sure I didn’t spell that correctly) and some other simple Slovenian delights – ooooh, such as sausage!) Others have a more generous idea about what it is that is blessed. They take the foods of the main Eater meal when the whole family will be together and so have hams and wine and butter and cakes and, well, (lip smack) everything you can imagine. You decide what it is you want to do.

The foods are usually placed in an appropriately sized basket and covered with a linen cloth, sometimes embroidered for just such occasions. But there is nothing wrong with using another type of container. Cooked or uncooked, it really does not matter.

At parishes where there is a Blessing of the Foods, the baskets are usually placed on the steps of the sanctuary or on the isle at the end of the pews. The official rite itself is actually quite short. After a reading and petitions there is a short prayer of blessings and you are done.

I try to always think with the mind of the Church, but this is one time I tend to go my own way. The blessing ceremony is a bit longer as I bless each of the food individually. What follows is each of the blessings to give you an idea of what you might bring and what each of the foods symbolize.

Father of all goodness, we bless You for this lamb and other meat products. You commanded our ancestors in the faith to prepare a lamb on Passover night. May these meats prepared for our celebration in honor of the Passover of Your Son from death to life remind us of the true Paschal Lamb by Whose blood we are saved . .

Father Almighty, may Your blessing be upon these breads and other grain products and all who partake of them. As with the many grains of wheat, which have combined to from these loaves, may we be mad one through the Bread of Life . . .

Heavenly Father, let Your blessing be upon our dairy products, especially these eggs, for in them we see a sign of Your Son rising to life from the tomb . . .

Blessed are You, Lord God, Who fill the hungry and satisfy the thirsty, and gave us wine to gladden our hearts. Grant that all who drink this wine in commemoration of the Passion of Your Son may rejoice in You and be invited to sit at your Heavenly banquet . . .

God of compassion, mercy, and love, in the midst of the pain and suffering of the world, Your Son came among us to heal our infirmities and soothe and heal our wounds. May all who this oil be blessed with health in mind and body . . .

Almighty God, we ask You to bless this salt as once You blessed the salt scattered over the water by the prophet Elisha. Wherever this salt is used, drive away the power of evil and protect us always by the presence of Your Holy Spirit . . .

God of power, Who enlightens the world and dispels the darkness of evil and sin, let the light of these candles illuminate our hearts and minds that they may reflect always the splendor of Christ . . .

We ask You to bless these flowers and other Easter decorations so that the faithful who use them to adorn their homes and this sanctuary to celebrate Your Son’s resurrection may praise You always for the beauty with which You clothed Your creation . . .

Loving Father, in joy we thank You for the Easter baskets, which these children ask Your blessing upon. May they enjoy these Easter eggs and candy and all that these baskets contain as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, Your Son and Our Brother. May we always appreciate the gifts we receive and the joy You give us in sharing them . . .

God of Glory, the eyes of all turn to You as we celebrate Christ’s victory of sin and death. Bless these fruits, vegetables, herbs, pastries, staples, and other foods of our Easter Meals. May those who gather at the Lord’s table continue to celebrate the joy of His resurrection and be admitted finally to His heavenly banquet . . .

If your parish does not have a blessing of the foods (and you cannot join us here at St. Clare Saturday at 1:00) you may of course bless your own food. The Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers Book (which I recommend for one and all) has a simple ceremony to perform.

God of Glory,
the eyes of all turn to you
as we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death.

Bless + us and this food of our first Easter meal.
May we who gather at the Lord’s table,
continue to celebrate the joy of His resurrection and be admitted finally to his heavenly banquet.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.


Amen.

3 comments:

Adoro te Devote said...

Thanks for all this info! I've actually never taken food to be blessed, and don't know if I'll be able to this year. But I do believe my parish does this - they do at Thanksgiving, I know.

I have a friend who, either at Thanksgiving or Easter, had placed food to be blessed near the door so they'd remember to pick it up as they left. She meant to grab the wine, which was still in the bag from purchase for the purpose of having it blessed.

But once she got to the church, right in the middle of the blessing when she heard the word "wine" she pulled it out of the bag....and it was BAILY'S IRISH CREAM! LOL!

So they had blessed liqueur later that day and unblessed wine with dinner. :-)

Anonymous said...

Would it be ok to use the Catholic Household Blessings Book to bless the meal Easter Sunday as we all sit down to eat? Or is it to be done Holy Saturday?

MJ

Fr. V said...

Adoro - ROFL! That would happen to me . . .

MJ - The whole family should be gathered and so I recommend doing it just before you commence eating!