Have you ever wondered why we “bless” people when they sneeze?
I think it’s Dane Cook who say’s, “I say GOD bless you, because I’m not the Lord.”
Whatever we say, the idea of blessing is involved.
What exactly is a blessing?
According to Wikipedia.com the virtual storehouse of all knowledge and truth (note tone of sarcasm here) there are several legends that have passed the test of time which attempt to explain the reason that “blessings “ are evoked when a person sneezes.
One legend holds that it was believed that the heart stops beating and the phrase "bless you" is meant to ensure the return of life or to encourage your heart to continue beating.
Another version says that the custom originally began when Gregory I became Pope in 590 as an outbreak of the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of chanters through the streets. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing ("God bless you!") became a common effort to halt the disease.
One explanation holds that people used to believe that your soul can be thrown from your body when you sneeze, that sneezing otherwise opened your body to invasion by the Devil or evil spirits, or that sneezing was your body's effort to force out an invading evil spirit. Thus, "bless you" or "God bless you" is used as a sort of shield against evil.
I am particularly intrigued by the idea of the soul being thrown from the body during a sneeze.
No matter. The gist of the term “blessing” seems to have something to do with words of protection, guidance, oversight, and strength.
In fact, dictionary.com defines “bless” thusly:
1. To consecrate or sanctify by a religious rite; make or pronounce holy.
2. To request of god the bestowal of divine favor.
The Hebrew word used most often in the Old Testament (over 800 times) which we translate into English as “bless” or “blessing” is barak.
There is a direction that I could go here at this point, but I will refuse as it would be both unimportant to what I am trying to say, as well as most certainly inappropriate. So I will resist.
Suffice it to say that the word is barak. This word literally means: spiritual gifts or protection transmitted from God.
Once the word makes its way into Greek, it becomes the word eulogeo which has several meanings:
1. A good word or to speak well of (eu: good/well and logos: word)
2. To praise, celebrate with praises
3. To consecrate a thing with solemn prayers
4. To cause to prosper, to make happy
In the end, the idea of “blessing” has something at least to do with the well-being of another.
Perhaps we should strive to “bless” others more often.
What would happen if everyone we saw today received a sincere “God bless you” from us for no good reason?
I’m not the Lord, but I bet He’d think that was pretty cool.
God bless you!