Asking a Priest’s Blessing
It is the practice of our Byzantine faith tradition that we ask for a blessing when we meet a priest or a bishop.
The Church transforms even as simple a thing as greeting a priest into yet another occasion to encounter God. The ritual we perform in this social meeting is directed not so much at the priest, but at God who is everywhere present.
The encounter with the priest is a kind of catalyst to find God in humility and grace for both the priest and the parishioner.
It becomes an opportunity to worship God. It can be an opportunity to receive divine blessing, for God alone is the source of all blessing. God can use the occasion of the meeting to recall our unvigilant selves back to God and back to His presence in our lives and the grace and blessings that are proffered to those who seek Him.
“…The Hand of God is held out in blessing for all who seek Him…” (Ezra 8:18b)
Thus approaching a priest, we offer our hand to him for the blessing. Our hands should be held cross-wise, palms upward, right hand over left.
We say to him: “Blahoslovy” or “Father, bless.” In the case of a bishop, we say, “Blahoslovy Vladyko” or “Master, bless.”
With his hand in the shape of the Christogram (ICXC spelled out in his fingers–a traditional symbol of blessing reserved to priests, recalling that Jesus Christ Conquers), the priest makes the Sign of the Cross over our extended hands. Then he puts his blessing hand into our open hands.
Thus doing, he invokes God’s blessing with this prayer:
“May the Lord bless you from Zion and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.” (Psalm 128:5)
We then kiss the blessing hand of the priest as a way to express to God our response to divine love.
Saint John Chrysostom taught that if one were to meet a priest walking along with an angel, that we should greet the priest first and kiss his hand, since that hand has touched the Body and Blood of our Lord.
It is a wonderful blessing to be blessed. An opportunity not to be missed. Let us take every occasion to open our hands and our hearts to God’s blessings, God’s grace, and God’s love.
“Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me your statutes!”