Monday, December 17, 2012

THE LANGUAGE OF BLESSING

“May you have a blessed Christmas” is the phrase of the season, a kind of benediction that is pronounced on those whom we want to touch and embrace, perhaps even to heal, by wishing them well. Christmas is the time to bless one another, to change the atmosphere of doom and gloom that surround us on every side in this postmodern world.

A few Christmases ago, a friend gave me a copy of a book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donahue, a writer who lived in Ireland and who frequently traveled to the U.S. to give lectures and trainings. O’Donohue used Celtic spiritual traditions to construct his poetic blessings, explaining that the word “blessing” evokes in us a sense of warmth and protection, that in a blessing the “human heart pleads with the Divine heart.” He believed that regardless of our differences in religion, politics, and language, there is no heart without this divine reference.

When I was a child, my mother gave me the blessings of good books, objects that comforted and transfigured my life, inspired me to become a writer. In the preface to my book about Louisiana women, Their Adventurous Will, I speak of her gift of books to me:

“…My mother loved words and books. When I was three years old, she would seat me, cross-legged in the middle of a small kitchen and open for me giant editions of Mother Goose, A Child’s Garden of Verse, and Marigold Garden, laughing at friends who often dropped in to proclaim that I was backward because I did not talk and only sat quietly, absorbing the book characters she knew I would remember for a lifetime. She read aloud the entire series of Uncle Wiggly in the Cabbage Patch, The Little Colonel, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Greek Legends, Black Beauty and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, even after all of the children in our family had learned to read.

“Every month for years, my mother would take one of the three children in our family to Claitor’s Bookstore in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to choose two books for our nightly reading session. She was the first family member to open the books, touching the pictures with credulous delight. My mother began to fly in the heavens long before Mary Poppins opened her umbrella to make her wonderful flights…”

I remembered those wonderful children’s books as I re-read John O’Donohue’s book this morning, thinking how meet his words are that describe blessing as a “direct address, driven by immediacy and care” – the qualities that drove my mother to share books she knew would always be my good friends. When I opened To Bless the Space Between Us, I blessed my mother as I pondered how we can dissuade negativity by simple blessings, by acknowledging that we have been blessed with inestimable gifts – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, warmth and shelter, good food, love, discoveries, small accomplishments, the ability to animate our ideas, and, of course, books that remind us how words can illuminate and transform our lives.

May you have a blessed Christmas!

Post a Comment