There’s only 40 days in Lent. Forty days to deeply meditate about who exactly Jesus was declaring Himself to be and what He really came to do in this world. And just forty days to grapple with the reality of humanity and how barbarian we can be. This last idea is the one that seizes my heart continuously. Maybe that’s why the concept of benediction has been weighing on me so heavily lately. Let me explain.
By definition, a benediction is a short prayer asking for divine blessing, grace, or intervention at the end of a church service. But I’m not talking about that kind of benediction. I’m thinking about the concept of Benediction. The idea that after we have wrestled with the pain and suffering; after we have submitted to the accusations about how wretched we really are; after we have accepted death and tasted its bitter end; that there would be a new life to resurrect to. Because benediction doesn’t dismiss our sin, but blesses us in spite of it, offering us something completely new. Let me give you a visual of this, borrowing from the Roman Catholics.
All throughout the year, and especially during lent, Catholics have a special time of submitting to Jesus. During what’s known as “adoration,” Catholics expose the Eucharist — the wafer that has been consecrated to God to be the physical representation of the Body of Christ — so that their congregation can come into a sacred space. In this space, the congregants sit in, what they believe to be, the presence of Jesus (picture below). For those who have participated in this sacrament, you know it’s power. The silence and space to sit and repent — quite literally to lament over one’s sins — is soul melting. Despite the value of this rite, Catholics regard the Eucharist so highly that they don’t leave the Host out like this all the time, though. After a time, during what is known as Benediction, the priest must remove the host and place it into a tabernacle until the mass can be said with an entire congregation, and they can partake of the bread together.
During adoration and benediction, Catholics participate in communal prayers, songs, litanies, and other forms of worship. But during the later half (just the Benediction) these prayers aren’t said with gusto or excitement anymore. They are said with the sorrow you would have in saying goodbye to a dear family member on their death-bed. They are said with a bending of the knee and a pleading to stay. The words are said like that because even though the song is one of God’s triumph, faithful Catholics know that the Eucharist is about to be taken from them.
THAT concept of Benediction — the idea that God needs to impart some sort of blessing even when it feels like He’s walking AWAY from us and not towards us — feels real. That feels ~lenten~. That feels like now. We need God to bless us — to impart peace and grace to us –when it feels like we’re being separated. When it feels like our enemy has slayed our God and is about to slay us as well. We need God to bless us when it feels like our sin is insurmountable.
We need God to bless our church as we fail so miserably at being the bride we are supposed to be. When we are so far from who and what we are supposed to stand for.
We need Benediction as a People. We need to get on our knees and wrestle with our sin. And then wrestle as we worship, knowing that God may distance Himself from us, if only to give us a longing to be ruled and loved by Him again. Because when death and sorrow and sin have conquered us and yet lay await to slay us again, benediction offers the hope of sovereignty. Of beauty. Of life again. In short, Benediction is part of the path to resurrection
May we pray for God to bless us as we fall so short. May we pray that when we get up, that we are different people. And may we pray that there is a day and a time that we are no longer wretched, but redeemed and resurrected.