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Blessing of Fleet a return to paradise

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  • KCIN12
    friendly format sponsored by: The New Media Department of The Post and Courier SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2007 9:50 AM Blessing of Fleet a return to paradise BY FR JOHN
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2007
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      friendly format sponsored by:
      The New Media Department of The Post and Courier

      SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2007 9:50 AM

      Blessing of Fleet a return to paradise


      BY FR JOHN PARKER


      I had heard of supersized but never supercharged. The young man meant
      well, though he was making a serious request by means of some sort of
      slang. He had bought a beautiful sterling silver baptismal cross and
      wanted to have it blessed. So he came into my study that day and
      asked, "Father, would you supercharge my cross for me?" I knew what
      he wanted, but the request came out so strangely. Not wanting to
      shame him by a direct correction, I said, "I'll be glad to bless your
      cross, Matthew." (Name changed.)

      The Orthodox Christian tradition has a blessing for nearly everything
      good. Among the contents of a wonderful book titled "The Abridged
      Book of Needs," one finds, for example, prayers for blessing all of
      the following: water, bees, boats, fire engines, homes, wells,
      airplanes, meat and cheese, fragrant herbs and fishnets. And the list
      goes on. Each blessing is typically a prayer, completed with the
      trinitarian sprinkling of holy water on the object being blessed.

      But what is blessing? Why would we, to make the connection present
      and local, bless the shrimp boats and their captains and crews? Does
      blessing supercharge?

      First, let me give the short answers to these important questions.
      Blessing is a liturgical and prayerful act by which we, as we say in
      the Orthodox Churches, "commend ourselves, each other, and all our
      life unto Christ our God." And rather than supercharging shrimp
      trawlers, we are actually asking God to return them, by our synergy
      (working together with him), to their actual use and purpose.

      Allow me to explain. When God created the world and all that is in
      it, and crowned his creation with man and woman, calling this "very
      good," everything was in order and communion with God. But when we,
      by our disobedience and self-interest, took matters into our own
      hands (read sinned), the whole world fell. That is, every part of
      existence was tainted, touched, affected by the sins of Adam and Eve -
      and today, by ours. Eating, for example, which was created to be our
      form of nourishment and communion with God, becomes gluttony: eating
      for the sake of eating. Drinking, offered to us for hydration and
      sober merriment, becomes drunkenness, and drunkenness for its own
      purpose. A home in the fallen world, originally intended for shelter,
      comfort, hospitality and the making of family, becomes a place where
      secret sins are hidden: illicit sexual relationships, abuse, rage,
      etc.

      Realizing that we are now a part of the fallen world, and not the
      world as it was created to be, we have the holy task of offering the
      fallen world back to God, asking him to make it right and/or to help
      us to make it so. As one of the greatest and most famous Orthodox
      priests of the 20th century described it, we have the task of
      transforming "the smallest, seemingly most insignificant detail of
      the routine drudgery of everyday existence in this fallen world into
      paradise." This we do routinely at meals, saying grace or asking the
      blessing. We certainly take part in this critical vocation each time
      we celebrate the marriage of a woman to a man. In the Orthodox
      Churches, this we also do annually (during the season of the feast of
      the Theophany, our Lord's baptism, Jan. 6) by the blessing of the
      homes of our parishioners. For house blessings, we say, in
      short, "Lord, make this house a holy home." For marriages, "Lord,
      make this couple king and queen of their Christian household, married
      forever." At meals, "Nourish us with the gifts of thy bounty on this
      table, O Lord."

      And this is what we take part in at the Blessing of the Fleet in
      Mount Pleasant. We gather to ask God to grant safety and success to
      each shrimper, and to assist each one to accomplish his or her
      vocation as a good steward of God's creation. Ultimately, every boat,
      every net, every engine, every deck and flag, along with every breath
      we breathe, belong to God and are on loan to us, given to us as gifts
      as a trust is given into the hands of trustees.

      Certainly, a part of such a blessing is our intention to cooperate
      with God in its fulfillment. I'd damn myself by blessing a bottle of
      wine (intended for sober fellowship and enjoyment) and then drinking
      it all by myself in one sitting. And it would be to our condemnation
      and judgment to ask God's blessing on a fleet of shrimping vessels
      whose captains intend only to wreak havoc on the local seas and the
      inhabitants thereof, and to scam the local community. We must
      remember that our aim is a return to paradise.

      Today, we ask God's blessing on the fleet, on those who operate the
      boats and on all of us who shall partake of their bounteous catch,
      remembering that our Lord Jesus Christ called his first disciples
      from among fishermen, and asking the heavenly protection of St.
      Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the patron of
      seafarers, in this new season.
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