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Vol. II .Dec. 1996

 

"The Angel Who Redeemed Me" (Gen 48,16)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Just as we dismiss the faithful at the end of mass with the blessing, so it seems that the patriarch Jacob wants to dismiss us from our meditations on the holy Angels in the Book of Genesis with the blessing. The last reference to the Angels in Genesis, namely, is to be found in his solemn blessing of his son Joseph and his two grandsons; it is like his testament:

"The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, / The God Who has led me all my life long to this day, / The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, - bless the lads; and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth" (Gen 48,15-16).

1. In his blessing, the great patriarch reflects on the inheritance received from his forebears and the experience of his own life, and then he desires the same graces for his sons asking GOD: "Bless the lads!" - There are three different forms of blessing: God has the creative blessing as the source of any and every good; then creatures, blessed by God, can mediate His blessing to others; and pure recipients of His blessing "bless" both God and His minister by praising His goodness.

a) God in His goodness is attentively present to all His creatures. He first creatively blesses them with life, and further provides (blesses them with) the necessary means of life and refines it with His grace and beauty. His blessing is also a protection: He withdraws those who trust in Him from the power of their enemies and of any destructive influence. Finally, there are consecratory blessings in which He sanctifies some creatures such that they are exclusively reserved for Himself and His service alone.

b) In the dispensation of His blessing, God sometimes acts directly, as it were, making it possible, for instance, for Abraham and Isaac to "walk before Him", almost like Adam had in his familiarity with God before the fall (cf. Gen 2; 3,8; Catechism of the Cath. Ch. = CCC. 374-379). In other circumstances, He communicates His blessing through others, as when He entrusted the cosmic, social and religious orders to the guardianship of the Angels (cf. CCC 57). That is the reason, why Jacob takes recourse in his invocation and blessing not only to God but also to the Angels, and indeed, in the same fashion: "The Angel who redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads." Other mediators of blessings are especially men conformed with God through His blessing. The Church teaches: "Every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless, ... the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests or deacons)" (CCC 1669). We can say: The more a creature accepts the blessing of God, the more it can transmit to others also (cf. Mt 21,9; Lk 1,28; Rev 14,13; 19,9).

c) Finally Sacred Scripture speaks of "blessing" when we praise the source of graces and blessings. "Because God blesses the human heart, it can, in return, bless Him who is the source of every blessing" (CCC 2645). Thus the Psalmist exclaims: "Bless the Lord, O my soul; bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O you His Angels! Bless the Lord, all His work!" (Ps 103,1.20.22). Here, blessed creatures proclaim in admiration and gratitude the goodness of their Creator, and recommend that others turn to this fountain of graces! Their "blessing" is the expression of holy wishes, which can be made effective by directing them to God in the form of prayer in which we entrust others to God’s omnipotence, calling His grace down upon them!

2. Jacob was blessed by God from the very beginning of his life (25,23). Purified in the school of life, he learned that without God he could not have submitted himself to Laban for so long nor could he have found peace with his brother, nor would he have had the holy resignation needed when he lost Joseph. Accordingly, he attributed everything to God, and praised and "blessed" Him for everything. His election as well as his conformity to the will of God made it possible to become himself a minister of God’s blessing:

He is authorized by the institution through his father as the father of a family and the patriarch of the entire chosen people of God (cf. 27,27-29). He serves as an instrument by following a certain ritual, by the application of matter and form (the imposition of hands and the formula) in which he refers three times to God. The mentioning of the holy Angels in the third place is a phenomenon that we will find repeated later in the NT (e.g. Lk 9,26 or Rev 1,4-5). By means of this blessing the grace and blessedness of God are to be transmitted to his sons: "Bless the lads" with a worthy, honorable and fruitful life! Jacob believes in the power of this blessing because he experienced all his life long the power of God’s blessing.

As Jacob was been chosen and constituted in his mission by his father’s blessing, so too are we priests today initiated into our office through the ministry of the bishop. As Jacob summed up all he had and desired for his sons in a blessing, so too should all parents in their families, but especially we priests should serve the people by blessing them with faith and firm conviction, calling God’s grace and goodness down upon them (cf. Num 6,22-27). And just as Jacob said first: "I will not let you go, unless you bless me!" (32,26), unless you assure me your presence and assistance with your power, so we should first of all assure God’s blessing for ourselves by a prayerful and pure life. Then, reverently and consciously pronouncing the formula of the blessing – and though it be the most simple: "May (Almighty) God bless you (– the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit)!" –, it will unite not just the blessed persons or objects, but also ourselves with the fountain of all graces, the Sacred Heart of Jesus in His eternal union with the Father and the Holy Spirit!

3. It is as if Jacob, in his departure from this life, would like to lead us away from all the attraction of creatures, up the mountains and beyond the gloomy clouds that enclose this vale of tears into the clear vision of a child of God, who knows itself safe in the paternal, omnipotent care of God where there can be only peace and tranquility, harmony and beauty, grace and joy, that is gratitude and beatitude. This is life in the conjunction with the Angels of God, the life in the threefold presence of God, the life in the third "age" of the matured life, in which God leads us through the "redeeming" interventions of the Angels.

That is what Jacob recalls and what he wishes as the only important matter for his sons, when he refers here also to the holy Angels, when he substitutes ‘God’ in the third invocation with the Angels: When he was called to live out his vocation, God assured him of His presence through the Angels ascending and descending from the throne of God upon him. When he did not see how to continue, God showed him the next step through the Angel. When he felt unable to live in peace with his brother and to care for his family, God touched the hearts of the others and strengthened Jacob through the encounter with the Angel who blessed him.

4. Jacob’s blessing forms the conclusion of the very first period of the history of the chosen people, and, indeed, of mankind itself (Gen 1-11 and 12-50)! Here, the great patriarch refers to the servants of God, the holy Angels! How much they must have been present in the life and conscience of the people of God, especially in their leaders!

At the end of these meditations we may exclaim with the Psalmist: "Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Ps 146,5)!

May the holy Angels who have been present throughout the entire year and will continue to be so in the coming year "light and guard, rule and guide" us, so that we, like Jacob, may confess before all men: "The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil!"

May we learn from Jacob, constantly, in the midst of the most simple daily work, in the streets or at reunions, to ask the Angels to bless all our spiritual children and to keep them from all evil!

May we invite the faithful in sermons and counsels to take recourse to the holy Angels seeking their help and protection.

May we learn again from Jacob to bless the people, directly and indirectly, those who are present and those we may never meet, those who are struggling and those dying without assistance. Seen and practiced in this way our priesthood and spiritual fatherhood will have descendants as numerous as those of Abraham, and God will acknowledge us before His Angels.

We too could begin the custom of blessing one another on a daily basis, say, by including one another in the blessing at the end of mass and in the final blessing after night prayer. In this intention (once made, it lasts forever, e.g. make it now!) let us implore God to keep us faithful, that He preserve us in grace and union with Christ and with all the members of the Work of the Holy Angels, especially with the priests, and of course, with the Holy Angels.

May He come to you this Christmas and bless you and may His blessing remain with you throughout the entire coming year!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC