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Eucharist: Bless - The end of the Eucharist?

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;  the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Numbers 6.24-26

Many of those of us who minster as Priests within the Anglican Church say a prayer of blessing towards the end of a service - whether it is a Eucharist, or Morning or Evening Prayer, a Wedding, a Funeral, a Baptism, It’s a huge privilege as a minister to say such a prayer, and those of us who do so offer this in the sense of affirmation and grace - in the name of the Church reminding God’s people of the light and life of Christ which we are called to carry beyond our walls in order that we might bless others by our very being.

The BAS (Book of Alternative Services) of the Anglican Church of Canada tells us that this is unnecessary at the celebration of the Eucharist

“The custom of giving a blessing at the end of the eucharistic liturgy stems from a period in the Middle Ages when very few of those present at the liturgy received communion. In our time, when very few people present at the eucharist do not receive communion, the practice of giving an additional blessing to that received in the act of communion itself appears superfluous.” (BAS p.181)

And yet, it is still considered by many as an integral part of the Eucharist.  Why might this be?

Whilst the sharing of Communion is indeed a blessing in itself for the whole community, there is still a sense that taking that blessing and sharing it is a crucial part of the purpose of the Eucharist.  When the Priest pronounces a blessing on the people she (or he) is not offering magic words which cause everyone to be better or to be blessed, but is reminding the people that they go from the Eucharist (Mass, Communion) with the blessing of the Church.  One of our Associate Priests, Bill Tartar, OSF, describes this as a “snapshot; of all that has happened in the Eucharist: something for each person to carry with them, that sums up all that has happened in the service which preceeds it.”

And so, for many of us who serve as priests, we continue to proclaim that love and bessing, to encourage the people of God to seek to be a blessing to the world.  

May God bless you, and give you the grace to be a blessing to all.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You (John Rutter)