PROFESSOR JOHN MACQUARRIE (1919-2007) was a Scottish theologian and philosopher, ordained to the Presbyterian ministry, and became an Anglican in 1962.
His defining moment came in his meeting with Our Lord in a service of Benediction......
Macquarrie tells of a time when his world was falling apart and he discovered the (Anglican) service of Benediction.
I was serving in the British army and had received notice of posting overseas. On the Sunday evening before we sailed, I was wandering through the streets of a sprawling suburban area near to where we were stationed. I came to an Anglican Church. The bell was summoning the people, and I went in. The first part of the service was familiar to me, for it was Evensong. But then followed something new to me - the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
This new service meant a great deal to me. I did not know what lay ahead of me or when I might come back to these shores again, but I had been assured of our Lord’s presence and had received his sacramental blessing.
I was reminded of Jacob, when he was far from home at Bethel and he heard the divine voice: ”Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which
I have spoken to you.”
Benediction is a beautiful word.
It means a blessing, a greeting, and expression of kindness and love.
Benediction is also a beautiful service of the Church.
It is a service that makes real to us in an impressive way
the fact that God is always reaching out to us,
to bless, to strengthen,
to assure us of his loving kindness toward us.
He is no longer with us in the physical body
that was his in Palestine many centuries ago,
but we believe that he is really present among us
in the Sacrament which he appointed.
'This is my Body', he said over the bread at the Last Supper with his disciples.
The same words are said over the bread at every Eucharist,
that it may be to us the Body of the Lord,
so that he may come again among us today
as he came at his first appearing in Palestine.
And just as that first appearing was like
the rising of the sun over a darkened world, so today when the Host is lifted up either in the Mass itself or in Benediction, it is like the rising of the sun upon us and we receive the radiance and warmth of God's blessing
through him whom he has sent.
As we sing the hymns and look upon the Host, we open our hearts to God,
knowing that he who sent the blessing of his Son to lighten the darkness of the world still sends through the same Son his blessing to us.
We do not wait on God in vain.
Lifting up the Host in a monstrance (sometimes in a ciborium)
those quiet opening moments of Benediction are very precious indeed.
We take time to compose ourselves, to put ourselves together, as it were.
These may be only a few minutes, but they have something of the quality of eternity.
We put aside our own busy plans, policies, activities, and remain passive before God so that his voice may be heard and his grace received. This brief time of quiet alone is of inestimable value in that crazy hurried world in which we all have to live nowdays.
The officiating priest makes the sign of the cross in blessing over the worshippers.
Christ, the Light of the world, shines upon us, and my comparison with the rising sun was appropriate because the monstrance is usually fashioned to resemble the sun's disc, with rays streaming out in all directions.
Let us not miss this time of precious quiet while we wait upon God in humility.
Let us not miss the blessing he bestows through the Christ who comes into our midst.
For in such acts of devotion we learn to love him better, and he can make us a benediction to all whom we meet.