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What is Blessing? How are People in the Bible Blessed?

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Pope Pius XI Blesses the Crowds in 1922

Pope Pius XI Blesses the Crowds in 1922

What is a Blessing?:

In the Bible, a blessing is depicted as a mark of God’s relationship with a person or nation. When a person or group is blessed, it is a sign of God’s grace upon them and perhaps even presence among them. To be blessed means that a person or people take part in God’s plans for the world and humanity.

Blessing as a Prayer:

Although it’s common to think about God blessing humans, it also occurs that humans offer blessing to God. This isn’t in order to wish God well, but instead as part of prayers in praise and adoration of God. As with God blessing humans, however, this also serves to help reconnect people with the divine.

Blessing as a Speech Act:

A blessing communicates information, for example about a person’s social or religious status, but more importantly it is a “speech act,” which means that it performs a function. When a minister says to a couple, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” he isn’t just communicating something, he is changing the social status of the individuals before him. Similarly, a blessing is a deed which requires an authoritative figure performing the deed and acceptance of this authority by those hearing it.

Blessing and Ritual:

An act of blessing links theology, liturgy, and ritual. Theology is involved because a blessing involves the intentions of God. Liturgy is involved because a blessing occurs in the context of liturgical readings. Ritual is involved because significant rituals occur when a “blessed” people remind themselves about their relationship with God, perhaps by reenacting events surrounding the blessing.

Blessings and Jesus:


Some of Jesus’ most famous words are contained in Sermon on the Mount, where he describes how and why various groups of people, the poor, are “blessed.” Translating and understanding this concept has proven difficult — should it be rendered, for example, as “happy” or “fortunate,” perhaps?

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