Fifty years ago it was still embarrassing to believe in ghosts and UFOs, especially to publicly mention them seriously.
But today, there are TV shows about UFOs, after-death visions and ghosts, involving actual sightings and recordings of space ships, lights at the ends of life’s tunnels, spooky voices and figures in the dark.
These shows come up with every possible theory week after week to explain what these strange phenomena are, except the possibility of demonic activity.
Thus, ghostly haunts, especially where there was violence, prove that curses have real power in the material world, but reports of the power of Christ’s blessings are either ignored or trivialized as psychological reactions to emotional or social instability.
Contrary to what the enemies of Christ want to admit, actual sightings and recordings of God’s blessings are real and profuse.
Simply going through the Bible and the stories of the saints is enough to make this point.
Blessings are specific favors and benefits of God’s grace given to man, such as children, wealth, virtue, healing, etc. As God said to Abraham, “I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
People can also bless other people, as Melchizedek, the king of Salem did. “He blessed Abram and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High.’” (Genesis 14:19).
But even God can be blessed, as Melchizedek continues in the next verse, “And blessed be God Most High.”
Since God does not need anything from his creation, nor does he receive any benefit from it, man’s blessing of God is more of specific praise or thanks to him for His goodness to us.
Every single human being since the beginning of time has been blessed by God with life, rain, friends, food, virtue, etc.
When religion dominated the thoughts and behavior of most societies, these blessings were constantly on their minds and lips, being cited daily and rightly ascribed as divine acts.
But in modern times, when people are obsessed with social injustices and the curses of men, the power of blessings has been trivialized, as when people say, “Bless you,” after a sneeze. No one means it or realizes its significance anymore.
Hence, when Holy Scripture says that as Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, he lifted up his hands to bless his believers, it is not noticed or recognized how the lifting of his hands is something profoundly important. (Luke 24:50-51)
When his last blessing is noticed, it is often viewed as a nice gesture, like sending someone a Christmas card, not as affecting the nature of man and his eternity.
Jesus Christ transforms blessings from a human good to a heavenly orientation in Matthew 5:43-44, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.”
But not only people, even mere objects in the material world can be blessed for sacramental use and affect people’s bodies and souls.
Jesus in Luke 9:16-17 blessed five loaves and two fishes, which then miraculously fed and blessed 5,000 men.
At the Last Supper, he “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26).
Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:16 describes the blood of the Eucharist as the “cup of blessing” for the spiritual cleaning of body and soul.
Even the bones of saints, or relics, are purified by many blessings of a lifetime, and still work in the Holy Spirit.
As written in 2 Kings 13:20-21, the bones of the Prophet Elisha, when the corpse of another man touched them, resurrected this dead man.
Even St. Paul’s handkerchief healed the sick (Acts 19:11), as well as St. Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15).
A new level of blessing corresponds to the restoration of man and his fallen world.
Being blessed and blessing others are not just poetic customs or casual remarks or useless priests’ rituals.
The Holy Spirit actually works in blessings, energizing perfect holiness, heavenly life, eternal salvation.
We may not see TV shows exploring this invisible realm, especially blessings in the sign of the cross, nor of its necessity in the path toward perfected love. But maybe it is better that we do not.
As the risen Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
And he was not speaking in a flowery way.
If we could see with spiritual eyes what Jesus says here, we would see that we are literally as blessed as the Apostles, who saw so many things Jesus did, “that even the world itself could not contain the books” of his words and deeds. (John 21:25)
How blessed are those who always and only bless in him, father, son and Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Andrew Gromm is pastor of St. Michael Orthodox Church in Youngstown.