Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Feast of St. Blaise

Today, the day after Candlemas, is the Feast of St. Blaise, who is the patron of protection against sore throats. When I was growing up it was the custom to go to church and have our throats blessed. The priest carried two blessed candles that had never been used and were not lighted, one in each hand. He made his way down the the communion rail crossing the candles around the throat of each person and saying the blessing.

As I began to write this, I realized how often we knelt at that communion rail; kneeling first, of course, to receive Holy Communion and then to be confirmed (once in a lifetime) and then every year to have our throats blessed and to receive Ashes on Ash Wednesday. The communion rails were torn out a long time ago and in many churches today there are no kneelers at the pews. Everything that we used to receive kneeling, we now stand for. We are required to pray either standing or sitting. I am not sure this is a good thing. After all, many of the same churches that first lost their communion rails demarcating, as they did, sacred space, for the sanctuary lay on the other side, are now gone themselves, torn down to make way for other things.

The church of my childhood was a church of mystery and of saints who were just on the other side of that threshold that Victor Turner called "liminal"--the other side of our physical world, known in some other way and touched through ritual, liturgy, tradition and sacred space. We have lost so much!

Still I am grateful to remember these things today and to invoke St Blaise for his intercession. I hope that we will all weather the winter without colds and the flu and come to spring healthy and with a little bit more prosperity than we have now.

No comments: