Friday, February 02, 2007

The blessing of throats

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St Blase (or Blasius) was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the fourth century. According to various accounts he was a physician before becoming a bishop. Veneration of this holy bishop spread throughout the entire church in the Middle Ages because he was reported to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone in caught in his 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 the sick by ministers of the church is a very ancient custom, rooted in imitation of Christ himself and his apostles. An annual blessing of throats is a traditional sign of the struggle against illness in the life of the Christian. A blessing of throats with candles tied together in the shape of a cross on St Blase's feast day (Feb 3rd, but sometimes done after the Candlemas liturgy) is performed as a prayer for good health throughout the year.

With two candles held in the shape of a cross, the celebrant touches them to throat of each person, and says
Through the intercession of Saint Blase, 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. Amen.

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