When one perchanced to sneeze in Elizabethan England, it was widely believed that the devil could enter your body. Offering God’s blessing to the sneezer was a way to fend off this unfortunate, malevolent event. Indeed, further research finds that in 77 AD Pope Gregory I broadcasted constant prayer to ward off the Bubonic Plague, though to little avail.
I think most people know about the superstitious origins of this custom, yet it persists, even though modern medical evidence clearly shows that germs pay no nevermind to such benedictions. And some well-wishers are relentless.
My eleven year old daughter tells me that one child in her science class has taken it upon himself to shout “Bless You” at the top of his lungs from the other side of the room if anyone in class should sneeze. I too, am often faced with competing blessings whilst out in public, a veritable deluge of consecrations raining down upon me from well-meaning strangers mindful of my safety. If anything, I think others should bless themselves, to ward off any immune-crippling germs I could be spreading around with my sneeze!
I can’t help but wonder why the lowly sneeze is the only bodily expulsion to garner such attention. What about belching? Or better yet, farting? Surely a public farter is one most in need of a kind blessing.
When I took it upon myself to somewhat grievously air my opinions to my spouse, he found it curious that I should even take exception to it. It was his way of thinking that we should take what we can get as far as felicitous blessings, and for the most part, who wouldn’t want, need and enjoy a little of the divine light sent their way by another member of humankind?
Hmmm. Perhaps issuing a friendly “Bless you” is just a way for people to engage in a shared moment of being human, however brief it may be.
And so I say unto you,
Blessings, and thanks for stopping by.