Sunday, January 31, 2016
Suffering and illness have always been among the greatest problems that trouble the human spirit and the blessing of the sick is a very ancient custom, rooted in imitation of Christ himself and his apostles.
Christians feel and experience pain as do all others; yet our faith helps us to grasp more deeply the mystery of suffering and to bear our pain with greater courage. Part of the plan laid out by God's providence is that we should fight strenuously against all sickness and carefully seek the blessings of good health, so that we may fulfill our role in human society and in the Church.
Here in the United States the annual blessing of throats is a traditional sign of the struggle against illness in the life of the Christian. This blessing is ordinarily given on February 3, the memorial of Saint Blaise.
Saint Blaise was the bishop in Armenia during the fourth century. Very little is known about his life. According to various accounts he was a physician before becoming a bishop. Veneration of Blaise spread throughout the entire Church because he was reputed to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone in his throat. Details regarding the miraculous healing of the boy vary. One account relates that the miracle occurred during the journey to take Blaise to prison when he placed his hand on the boy's head and prayed; another that the miracle happened while Blaise was in prison when he picked up two candles provided to him and formed a cross around the boy's throat. From the eighth century he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat.
The blessing of throats is normally given by a priest or deacon who touches the throat of the one being blessed with two candles which were blessed the day before on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) and which have been joined together in the form of a cross and tied together by a red ribbon, the color or martyrdom..
The following blessing is said: "Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."The Feast of St. Blaise is celebrated on February 3rd.