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Icon of Jesus Christ Pantokrator by Theophanes the Greek (14th century). His right hand is raised in benediction.

A benediction (Latin: bene, well + dicere, to speak) is a short invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service.



Judaism developed ritualised benedictions (Berachot) for use at the Temple of Jerusalem, and the home. These Berachot often took the form of a blessing upon the fulfillment of a mitzvah (divine commandment). The most important benediction was the Priestly Blessing pronounced by the kohenim (priests descended from Aaron), as found in Numbers 6:23-27.


Exposion of the blessed sacrament in Sacred Heart Chaplaincy in Cagayan de oro, Philippines

From the earliest church, Christians adopted ceremonial benedictions into their liturgical worship, particularly at the end of a service. Such benedictions have been regularly practiced both in the Christian East and West. At the time of the Reformation, Protestants abandoned many of the benedictions of the Roman Catholic Church, including the Apostolic Benediction made by the Pope and his delegates, the "last blessing" of the dying, and virtually all benedictions of inanimate objects. However, the Anglican church retained the principle of benediction, and a benediction or blessing ends most Anglican services.

A common form of benediction in Roman Catholic and liturgical Protestant churches is for the worship leader to raise his hands and recite the words of the biblical Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:23-27).

Some Protestant churches have recently started to reincorporate the use of benedictions in the closing of their church services. Such benedictions may be taken from Scripture, written by a church member, or a combination of the two.

An often complex and lengthy blessing before communion took place in the mass of the Gallican Rite and in some French sees survived until the Gallican rites controversy when they were suppressed. Pope John Paul II, however, gave permission for these sees to restore this traditional element of their local rite.

In the Orthodox Church, benedictions will occur at both the beginning and the end of each service, and there may be other benedictions during the course of the service. The final benediction (the dismissal) is the most important, and will often entail mention of the feast or saint being commemorated that day. The priest will bless with his right hand, and the bishop will bless with both hands. In both cases, the hand is held so that the fingers form the initials IC XC (the abbreviation for "Jesus Christ" in Greek), and he traces the Sign of the Cross in the air with his hand. If a bishop or abbot is holding his crozier while making the benediction, he will raise his right hand and trace the Sign of the Cross with both his crozier and right hand, crossing the one in front of the other. More solemn benedictions, such as that which comes at the end of the Divine Liturgy, will be made with a blessing cross rather than the hand.


Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

One of the most generally popular services in the Roman Catholic is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, known in France as Salut and in Germany as Segen. It is also the custom of some high-church Anglican churches to hold this service. It is ordinarily an afternoon or evening devotion and consists in the singing of certain hymns, or litanies, or canticles, before the Blessed Sacrament, which is exposed upon the altar in a monstrance and is surrounded with lights. At the end, the priest, his shoulders enveloped in a humeral veil, takes the monstrance into his hands and with it makes the sign of the cross (hence the name Benediction) in silence over the kneeling congregation. Benediction is often employed as a conclusion to other services, e.g. Vespers, Compline, the Stations of the Cross, etc., but it is also still more generally treated as a rite complete in itself. There is a good deal of diversity of usage in different countries with regard to details, but some of the elements are constant. The use of incense and wax candles, which even in the poorest churches must not be less than ten in number, the singing of the "Tantum ergo" with its versicle and prayer, and the blessing given with the Blessed Sacrament are obligatory everywhere. In Rome the principle obtains that the only portion of the service which is to be regarded as strictly liturgical is the singing of the "Tantum ergo" and the giving of the Benediction which immediately follows. This idea is emphasized by the fact that in many Roman churches the celebrant, vested in cope and preceded by thurifier, acolytes, etc., only makes his entry into the sanctuary just before the "Tantum ergo" is begun. Previously to this the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, informally so to speak, by a priest in cotta and stole; and then choir and congregation are left to sing litanies and canticles, or to say prayers and devotions as the occasion may demand.

In English-speaking countries the service generally begins with the entry of the priest and his assistants in procession and with the singing of the "O Salutaris Hostia" as soon as the Blessed Sacrament is taken out of the tabernacle. Indeed in England the singing of the "O Salutaris" is enjoined in the "Ritus servandus", the code of procedure approved by a former synod of the Province of Westminster. On the other hand, the Litany of Our Lady, though usually printed after the "O Salutaris" and very generally sung at Benediction, is nowhere of obligation. It may be added that further solemnity is often given to the service by the presence of deacon and subdeacon in dalmatics. When the bishop of the diocese officiates he uses mitre and crosier in the procession to the altar, and makes the sign of the cross over the people three times in giving the benediction. On the other hand, a very informal sort of service is permitted, where the means for carrying out a more elaborate rite are not available. The priest, wearing cotta and stole, simply opens the tabernacle door. Prayers and devotions are said or sung, and then the priest blesses those present with the veiled ciborium before the tabernacle door is again closed. The permission, general or special, of the bishop of the diocese is necessary for services where Benediction is given with the monstrance. source:

References in popular culture

  • In the MMORPG World of Warcraft, Benediction is the name given to the holy form of a Priest's epic staff.
  • Similarly, in Final Fantasy XI, White Mages have an ability called Benediction, which restores life to all allies, but can only be called upon once every two hours.
  • In the MMORPG Guild Wars Nightfall, there is also a spell called Zealous Benediction, which is a powerful healing spell.
  • In the RPG Dragon Quest VIII Benediction is used by priests to lift curses from party characters.
  • In the MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot healer classes gain access to a constitution stat buff that is for a short time called "Benediction of Health."
  • Benediction is also the title of a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1920.
  • In the song "Over Now" by Day26 the hook contains: "Benediction from a pastor."
  • Ending of the 1994 metal album 'Suicidal For Life' by Suicidal Tendencies.


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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BENEDICTION (Lat. benedictio, from benedicere, to bless), generally, the utterance of a blessing or of a devout wish for the prosperity and happiness of a person or enterprise. In the usage of the Catholic Church, both East and West, though the benediction as defined above has its place as between one Christian and another, it has also a special place in the sacramental system in virtue of the special powers of blessing vested in the priesthood. Sacerdotal benedictions are not indeed sacraments - means of grace ordained by Christ himself, but sacramentals (sacramenta minora) ordained by the authority of the Church and exercised by the priests, as the plenipotentiaries of God, in virtue of the powers conferred on them at their ordination; "that whatever they bless may be blessed, and whatever they consecrate may be consecrated." The power to bless in this ecclesiastical sense is reserved to priests alone; the blessing of the paschal candle on Holy Saturday by the deacon being the one exception that proves the rule, for he uses for the purpose grains of incense previously blessed by the priest at the altar. But though by some the benediction has thus been brought into connexion with the supreme means of grace, the sacrifice of the Mass, the blessing does not in itself confer grace and does not act on its recipients ex opere operato. It must not be supposed, however, that the Catholic idea of a sacerdotal blessing has anything of the vague character associated with a benediction by Protestants. Both by Catholics and by Protestants blessings may be applied to things inanimate as well as animate; but while in the reformed Churches this involves no more than an appeal to God for a special blessing, or a solemn "setting apart" of persons or objects for sacred purpoes, in the Catholic idea it implies a special power, conferred by God, of the priests over the invisible forces of evil. It thus stands in the closest relation to the rite of exorcism, of which it is the complement.

According to Catholic doctrine, the Fall involved the subjection, not only of man, but of all things animate and inanimate, to the influence of evil spirits; in support of which St Paul's epistles to the Romans (viii.) and to Timothy (I Tim. iv. 4-5) are quoted. This belief is, of course, not specifically Christian; it has been held at all times and everywhere by men of the most various races and creeds; and, if there be any validity in the contention that that is true which has been held semper, ubique, et ab omnibus, no fact is better established. In general it may be said, then, that whereas exorcism is practised in order to cast out devils already in possession, benediction is the formula by which they are prevented from entering in. Protestants have condemned these formulae as so much magic, and in this modern science tends to agree with them; but to orthodox Protestants at least Catholics have a perfect right to reply that, in taking this line, they are but repeating the accusation brought by the Pharisees against Christ, viz. that he cast out devils "by Beelzebub, prince of the devils." Though, however, the discomfiture of malignant spirits still plays an important part in the Catholic doctrine of benedictions, this has on the whole tended to become subordinated to other benefits. This is but natural; for, though the progress of knowledge has not disproved the existence of devils, it has greatly limited the supposed range of their activities. According to Father Patrick Morrisroe, dean and professor of liturgy at Maynooth, the efficacy of benedictions is fourfold: (1) the excitation of pious emotions and affections of the heart, and by their means the remission of venial sins and of the temporal punishments due for these; (2) freedom from the power of evil spirits; (3) preservation and restoration of bodily health; (4) various other benefits, temporal and spiritual. Benedictions, moreover, are twofold: (a) invocative, i.e. those invoking the divine benignity for persons and things without changing their condition, e.g. children or food; (b) constitutive, i.e. those which give to persons or things an indelible religious character, i.e. monks and nuns, or the furniture of the altar. The second of these brings the act of benediction into contact with the principle of consecration; for by the formal blessing by the duly constituted authority persons, places and things are consecrated, i.e. reserved to sacred uses and preserved from the contaminating influence of evil spirits. Thus graveyards are consecrated, i.e. solemnly blessed in order that the powers of evil may not disturb the bodies of the faithful departed; thus, too, the blessing of bells gives them a special power against evil demons.

Though the giving of blessings as a sacerdotal function is proper to the whole order of priests, particular benedictions have, by ecclesiastical authority, been reserved for the bishops, who may, however, delegate some of them; i.e. the benediction of abbots, of priests at their ordination, of virgins taking the veil, of churches, cemeteries, oratories, and of all articles for use in connexion with the altar (chalices, patens, vestments, &c.), of military colours, of soldiers and of their arms. The holy oil is also blessed by bishops in the Roman Catholic Church; in the Greek Church, on the other hand, the oil for the chrism at baptism is blessed by the priest. To the pope alone is reserved the blessing of the pallium, the golden rose, the "Agnus-Dei" and royal swords; he alone, too, can issue blessings that involve some days' indulgence. The ceremonies prescribed for the various benedictions are set forth in the Rituale Romanum (tit. viii.). In general it is laid down (cap. i.) that the priest, in benedictions outside the Mass, shall be vested in surplice and stole, and shall give the blessing standing and bare-headed. Certain prayers are said before each benediction, after which he sprinkles the person or thing to be blessed with holy water and, where prescribed, censes them. He is attended by a minister with a vase of holy water, an aspergillum and a copy of the Rituale or missal. In all benedictions the sign of the cross is made. In the blessing of the holy water (cap. ii.), the essential instrument of all benedictions, the object is clearly to establish its potency against evil spirits. First the "creature of salt" is exorcized, "that. .. thou mayest be to all who take thee health of body and soul; that wherever thou art sprinkled every phantasy and wickedness and wile of diabolic deceit may flee and leave that place, and every unclean spirit"; a prayer to God for the blessing of the salt follows; then the "creature of water" is exorcized, "that thou mayest become exorcized water for the purpose of putting to flight every power of the enemy, that thou mayest avail to uproot and expel this enemy with all his apostate angels, by the virtue of the same our Lord Jesus Christ, &c."; and again a prayer to God follows that the water may "become a creature in the service of His mysteries, for the driving out of demons, &c." In the formulae of blessings that follow, the special efficacy against devils is implied by the aspersion with holy water; the benedictions themselves are usually merely invocative of the divine protection or assistance, though, e.g., in the form for blessing sick animals the priest prays that "all diabolic power in them may be destroyed, and that they may be ill no longer." It is to be remarked that the "laying on of hands," which in the Old and the New Testament alike is the usual "form" of blessing, is not used in liturgical benedictions, the priest being directed merely to extend his right hand towards the person to be blessed. The appendix de Benedictionibus to the Rituale Romanum contains formulae, often of much simple beauty, for blessing all manner of persons and things, from the congregation as a whole and sick men and women, to railways, ships, blast-furnaces, lime-kilns, articles of food, medicine and medical bandages and all manner of domestic animals.

The Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, commonly called simply "Benediction" (Fr. saint, Ger. Segen), is one of the most popular of the services of the Roman Catholic Church. It is usually held in the afternoon or evening, sometimes at the conclusion of Vespers, Compline or the Stations of the Cross, and consists in the singing of certain hymns and canticles, more particularly the 0 salutaris hostia and the Tantum ergo, before the host, which is exposed on the altar in a monstrance and surrounded by not less than ten lighted candles. Often litanies and hymns to the Virgin are added. At the conclusion the priest, his shoulders wrapped in the humeral veil, takes the monstrance and with it makes the sign of the cross over the kneeling congregation, whence the name Benediction. The service, the details of which vary in different countries, is of comparatively modern origin. Father Thurston traces it to a combination in the i 6th and 17th centuries of customs that had their origin in the 13th, i.e. certain gild services in honour of the Blessed Virgin, and the growing habit, resulting naturally from the doctrine of transubstantiation, of ascribing a supreme virtue to the act of looking on the Holy Sacrament.

In the reformed Churches the word "benediction" is technically confined to the blessing with which the priest or minister dismisses the congregation at the close of the service.

See the article "Benediktionen," by E. C. Achelis in HerzogHauck, Realencyklopadie (Leipzig, 1897); The Catholic Encyclopaedia (London and New York, 1908) s. " Blessing," by P. Morrisroe, and "Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament," by Herbert Thurston, S.J.; in all of which further authorities are cited.

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Simple English

Benediction is a short prayer for help and blessings from God. They are usually delivered at the end of a worship service. Roman Catholics have many more benedictions, usually with many candles (even poor churches have at least ten),[1] than Protestants, who only have a few simple benedictions. A kind of benediction that is often done in both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches is for the worship leader to raise his hands and say the Biblical Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:23-27). This was made popular by Martin Luther in his Deutsche Messe (German Mass).[2] It is a tradition in most Lutheran Churches.[3] F. Scott Fitzgerald also wrote a short story called Benediction in 1920.


  1. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament". Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  2. "benediction (religion) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  3. Precht, Fred L. Lutheran Worship History and Practice. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993. p. 434.


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