Biblical support for the significance/efficacy of blessing tangible objects?


#1

I am looking for some Biblical references that deal with the practice of blessing “things”- why or when blessing things was done and what effect it was believed to have had?

The question arose a few days ago during another theological discussion with a friend who noticed that I had a bottle labeled “Holy Water” on my table. He asked about it and did not think the Bible ever mentioned “tangible objects” being blessed.

I explained it was a tool to help with spiritual warfare and prayer (I hope I didn’t misspeak- my priest gave it to me after a presentation on spiritual warfare). This seemed to upset him because he perceived it as a belief verging on something sacrilegious or blasphemous in nature- the idea that someone could claim that water or a “thing” holds the power of God to fight evil, etc.

I’m still fairly new as a Catholic and am admittedly not as well versed in scripture as he is so I couldn’t offer an immediate point of reference to any Bible passages about it. Is there somewhere in the Bible that explains the topic of blessing things that are to be used in prayer or for using holy water to bless a home, etc?


#2

2 Kings: 13:20-21:

Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.

From Acts 19:

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

calledtocommunion.com/2012/08/relics-saints-and-the-assumption-of-mary/

The first real blow to this interpretation came when I read Peter Brown’s book, The Cult of Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity.
Brown challenged my view that the place of saints and relics in the church was a mere holdover from paganism, and that the practice was somehow peripheral to true Christianity. Instead, Brown painted a picture of ancient Christianity and paganism in which relics were indispensable to the former, and repulsive to the latter. Far from a holdover from paganism, the place of relics in the Church appeared as something intensely Jewish, Hebraic, and Old Testament. Pagans, like Julian-the-Apostate, found the practice revolting and legislated against it. (Paganism, with its notions of ritual purity, had strictly delimited the realm of divine worship and neatly separated it from the realm of corpses and the dead.)

Saints and Relics as Biblical

As I explored this conundrum, the first thing I began to appreciate was just how biblical the practice really was. I realized that the veneration of relics, belief in their miraculous powers, and in the intercession of departed saints and angels was deeply Hebraic and Jewish. We find testimony to it in such places as 2 Kings 13:20-21, 2 Maccabees 15:12-16, and Tobit 12:12-15, considered especially in comparison to Revelation 5:8. (At this point, it was immaterial to me whether Maccabees and Tobit should be considered canonical texts. It was enough that they expressed a historic Jewish belief in these concepts.)

To take my favorite example:

2 Kings: 13:20-21:

Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.


#3

I have a feeling my friend will agree with this passage and not have any problems with it. I think he is getting stuck on the idea of a priest blessing water to make the water “holy” and the idea that the holy water (or other blessed item) could contain some type of spiritual power. I should also add he is referencing a non-Catholic Bible translation, unfortunately, so he is missing Tobit & Maccabees :frowning:


#4

The first real blow to this interpretation came when I read Peter Brown’s book, The Cult of Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity.
Brown challenged my view that the place of saints and relics in the church was a mere holdover from paganism, and that the practice was somehow peripheral to true Christianity. Instead, Brown painted a picture of ancient Christianity and paganism in which relics were indispensable to the former, and repulsive to the latter. Far from a holdover from paganism, the place of relics in the Church appeared as something intensely Jewish, Hebraic, and Old Testament. Pagans, like Julian-the-Apostate, found the practice revolting and legislated against it. (Paganism, with its notions of ritual purity, had strictly delimited the realm of divine worship and neatly separated it from the realm of corpses and the dead.)

Saints and Relics as Biblical

As I explored this conundrum, the first thing I began to appreciate was just how biblical the practice really was. I realized that the veneration of relics, belief in their miraculous powers, and in the intercession of departed saints and angels was deeply Hebraic and Jewish. We find testimony to it in such places as 2 Kings 13:20-21, 2 Maccabees 15:12-16, and Tobit 12:12-15, considered especially in comparison to Revelation 5:8. (At this point, it was immaterial to me whether Maccabees and Tobit should be considered canonical texts. It was enough that they expressed a historic Jewish belief in these concepts.)

I do not dispute the scriptures you quoted but I do think you misinterpreted the Jewish attitudes to human corpses. The Jewish people would have been like Julian the Apostate in thinking that such things were disgusting, for example under Jewish law touching a dead body or being in the house when someone died would make you “unclean” Numbers 19:11-19

It is Jesus who made what was unclean to be clean! Such as when He raised Jarius’ daughter and when he healed the woman with the emission of blood for 12 years.

The Jewish people took very seriously the need to bury their dead (bones of Jacob carried back to Canaan, bones of Joseph the same, and David with the bones of Saul and jonathon) but they did not consider the dead to holy, but rather the opposite.

I am reading Deuteronomy at the moment and a very interesting passage is here:

“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.” Deu 21:22-23

Another one of those mind blowing passages when you think of the cross! Puts in mind this verse, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Gal 3:13


#5

You might want to study sacramentals. Scott Hahn has a book called “signs of life” that you might want to check out.

Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots


#6

Awesome, thanks! I will check out the book.


#7

Exodus 29:37 – “Purify the altar, and consecrate it every day for seven days. After that, the altar will be absolutely holy, and whatever touches it will become holy.”

Exodus 30:28-29 - “[Anoint] the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the laver and its base; you shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy.”

Exodus 40:7-13 mentions that a basin of water was set up by the door of a tabernacle, and the whole thing was consecrated. According to the same passage, when priests were consecrated, part of the ceremony involved washing them with this consecrated water.

One of the jobs the priests of Aaron has was blessing the people’s offerings of grain. Speaking of these offerings, Scripture says, “whoever touches them shall become holy.” Leviticus 6:15-18.

Similarly with some of the animal offerings, Scripture says, “Whatever touches [their] flesh shall be holy.” Leviticus 6:25-27.

From all of these passages we can see that it is okay to consecrate tangible objects, including water specifically, and these blessings can “carry over” to other things when used properly. BTW when a tangible thing is blessed it is usually called a sacramental.

I hope that helps. Please let me know.


#8

Thank you, this helps!! :slight_smile: I’m somewhat familiar with the term sacramental(s) (although I didn’t realize that it had to have been blessed to be considered a sacramental) but my friend is a non-denominational Christian and he used the words “tangible thing/object”. It’s difficult discussing many things with him because it’s like we speak a different language on matters of faith. Thank you for all the references!!! :thumbsup:


#9

Hi,

Here’s one passage that actually explains the importance of Sacramentals;

41 After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them.** Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests**. (Exodus 28:41)

One important passage about the “tangible” facets of our Faith is often overlooked:

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? (1 Corinthians 15:29-30)

Clearly, since there is only One Baptism there was no need for Christians to be rebaptized unless the “tangible” act of Living the Faith would translate as an offering for their loved ones who had died prior to the First Coming!

…one more distinct passage that we can point to is the anointing of the sick:

14 Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. (St. James 5:14-15)

We don’t find Jesus Teaching this behavior; yet, since the Church is organic Doctrinal Practices change as the need arises and the Holy Spirit inspires it!

Maran atha!

Angel


#10

#11

Someone had posted about sacramentals…I like this qoute from the article below:

aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/sacramentals/

*They also the underscore the Church’s deeply held conviction that all of creation is a potential medium for the revelation of god’s presence and blessing.

In speaking about sacramentals, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy affirms the goodness of the material world and plainly states that “there is hardly any proper use of material things that cannot be directed toward human sanctification and the praise of God.”

Along with the sacraments themselves that hallow the key moments of human life, the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) that sanctifies the Christian day and the liturgical year relates the annual cycle of seasons to God’s grace; sacramentals address the myriad of occasions in the lives of believers.*


#12

I don’t have the exact passages in front of me but how about when the Israelites were lost in the desert and God sent the poisonous snakes that bit the Israelites. He then instructed Moses to make the image of the serpent and anybody that would look upon the serpent would be healed.

ChadS


#13

Hi, Chad!

…yeah that’s:

7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:7-9)

This is an excellent example of what isn’t a graven image (image made for the purpose of idolatry); the Same God Who Commands that there should be no graven image later Commands that an image of their torture and death be made and exhibited; further, God Commands that those seeking relief (physical salvation from the death bite) must actually look at the serpent’s image in order to be saved…

The image has no power! It is the ***obedience to God’s Will ***that actually Saves.

Obeying God’s Command made it possible that by viewing an image (the Catholic Church calls it a Sacramental) God’s Mercy and Salvation would come upon the people.

Interestingly enough, Moses, quite unawares, was setting up a type for the Spiritual Salvation in Christ Jesus as His image on the Cross (a vision of disgust to the Jews) would be the Way to Reparation and Salvation for both Jews and Gentile.

Maran atha!

Angel


#14

Awesome, thank you for this insight!!!


#15

I was in confession with a priest who was conducting a mission in our parish, and at the end, he gave me a small crucifix which he said had been blessed by the Holy Father, Francis.

First, I gave it away to a relative who appreciated it more than I did.

second, I’m almost nervous about having anything "blessed’ because it inevitably mixes in with so many things that are not “blessed” – e.g. ends up in a drawer etc. I can’t keep track of it. I don’t want to be superstitious about things that have been blessed.

The effect on me of coming into contact with something that has been blessed is to make me nervously aware of that object having been blessed, in some sense “dedicated” by the hands of a priest who himself has been anointed in Holy Orders. (I’ve never had that thought before.)

I think that a Bible is already blessed by the words that are printed in it, far beyond anything added by an action of a priest or pope. I don’t full appreciate the whole idea of having blessed objects.


#16

I was in confession with a priest who was conducting a mission in our parish, and at the end, he gave me a small crucifix which he said had been blessed by the Holy Father, Francis.

First, I gave it away to a relative who appreciated it more than I did.

second, I’m almost nervous about having anything "blessed’ because it inevitably mixes in with so many things that are not “blessed” – e.g. ends up in a drawer etc. I can’t keep track of it. I don’t want to be superstitious about things that have been blessed.

The effect on me of coming into contact with something that has been blessed is to make me nervously aware of that object having been blessed, in some sense “dedicated” by the hands of a priest who himself has been anointed in Holy Orders. (I’ve never had that thought before.)

I think that a Bible is already blessed by the words that are printed in it, far beyond anything added by an action of a priest or pope. I don’t full appreciate the whole idea of having blessed objects.

I avoid holy water fonts in churches (and have for years) on the basis of their somewhat dirty appearance, at least in the case of the fonts in my parish church, and their questionable (at best) sanitation status.

In formal ceremonies where a bishop is present, there are usually two non-ordained servers with long stoles on, to use for avoiding direct hand contact with the bishop’s miter or crosier – so highly regarded are these objects of the bishop’s office and authority. In my lifetime, bishops used to wear white gloves, so as to, it seems, prevent their anointed hands from coming into contact with anything not similarly consecrated.

I don’t recall whether anyone previously mentioned the story in the gospels of the woman who was healed by touching the tassel of Jesus’s garment. Jesus says the He felt power leaving Him when she touched it, or something to this effect.

In the OT, blood from sacrificed animals was dashed on the altar. Why? Well, in the first place, that was how the altar was dedicated or consecrated. The sins of the people desecrated the altar and the dwelling place of God with Israel, and so the altar was re-dedicated with blood at least twice a day – the morning and evening sacrifices, not to mention all the additional sacrifices that may have been made during the day.

do we give so much reverence to the altar in church, which is the place of the ultimate consecration of Christ’s body and blood? Hardly, from what I can tell.


#17

Hi!

…here’s the beauty of Church Teaching: you are free to accept it or not.

Clearly, this was Jesus’ Teachings:

16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. 17 For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them. (St. Matthew 13:16-17)

18 Having eyes, see you not? and having ears, hear you not? neither do you remember. (St. Mark 8:18)

(…) follow me. (St. Matthew 19:21c)

The Call is to follow Jesus… there might be things that you do not understand–Jesus has no problems with that. In your Fellowship you will learn to open your eyes and your ears and your heart and your mind.

I understand your concern about superstition–sadly, that’s an insidious evil that permeates society and sliders, like a fog, into the Believers’ hearts and minds… but be careful of “selective” seeing and listening… the same Church that offers you the Sacraments and Sacramentals is the same Church that brought you the Bible!

Maran atha!

Angel


#18

Hi!

I concur with you on the issue of the holy water fonts… some parishes seem not to care very much about cleansing; at others, I think that the basins themselves are made of poor quality materials that project a dirty/unhealthy containment.

…on the garments… I’ve never seen quite such (with the exception of the gloves) but I think this goes back to the Old Testament where Yahweh God Commanded that the Priestly garments (and utensils) be made in a certain form and that they were to be used only for the purpose of Worship–clearly separated from the mundane.

…the woman with the hemorrhage… it was not the garment or the touching of it but the Faith deposited by the woman:

(…) 34 And he said to her: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole: go in peace, and be thou whole of thy disease. (St. Mark 5:25-34)

Clearly, this incident is of a different characteristic than observed by Priestly garments.

Again, I concur with on the matter of altar reverence or lack thereof–it seems that local parish Priests (though it could be worldwide, inclusive of Vatican city) have been granted or have taken liberties to make the altar less foreboding or perhaps they want to be “liked” by the world so they have relaxed (in some cases thrown away) all semblances of reverence.

Perhaps not many parishioners care enough to bring this and other important matters to the attention of their Priests (and when that fails, their Bishops).

While it is true that Jesus said that the Temple was the House of God (God-with-us) clearly He did not mean to demote God’s House (by telling us that we can call God our Father, hence what’s His is mine…) to the neighborhood’s hangout! :crying::crying::crying:

Maran atha!

Angel


#19

Having blessed salt as part of holy water (as used to be done) tends to prevent a lot of sanitation problems. Unfortunately, a lot of priests no longer incorporate blessed salt into holy water, since it is no longer required.


closed #20

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