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Blessing the World

Blessing the World: Ritual and Lay Piety in Medieval Religion

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Blessing the World
    Book Description:

    In Blessing the World, Derek A. Rivard studies liturgical blessing and its role in the religious life of Christians during the central and later Middle Ages, with a particular focus on the blessings of the Franco-Roman liturgical tradition from the tenth to late thirteenth centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1828-1
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS (pp. xi-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-24)

    The idea of a reality that lies beyond our understanding, a sacred being or power existing adjacent to yet distinct from the mundane world as we perceive it, is a common element of the religious belief of human cultures throughout recorded history. As a general student of religion, I have long been interested in this idea of the sacred, along with the rituals that implore its power and the cosmological beliefs that such rituals express. Numerous studies by archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians of the ancient and modern world have satisfied my interest with texts that I, an outsider to these...


    The origins of Christian blessing are to be found in the scriptural traditions of the ancient Israelites. The theology of the Old Testament does not primarily emphasize blessing and God’s role in it, focusing its attention rather on God as one who saves, a God of deliverance.¹ This is not to say, however, that blessing is absent from Hebrew scripture. Rather, blessing (understood as actions of God that produce a condition of well-being) exists side by side with God’s acts of deliverance. Deliverance is experienced in intercessory events, while blessing is a continuing activity of God present at God’s will,...

  7. Chapter 2 SACRED PLACES AND SACRED SPACE (pp. 45-132)

    The human experience of our environment has always been subjected to the drive to order the cosmos in such a way as to make it comprehensible. This process has been particularly evident in the development of human religious systems and cultures, which often seek to establish as unquestionable the existence of a reality hidden behind the sensual one. This hidden reality is usually considered to be of a higher order than mere visible reality, and human beings have always looked to it for the deepest meaning of human existence and have linked it with the divine origins of creation itself.¹...

  8. Chapter 3 SACRED PERSONS: Blessing the Laity (pp. 133-216)

    The civilization of the Latin West during the Middle Ages understood sacred qualities and power to pass to individuals primarily through ritualized formulas of ordination and consecration. These rituals were performed by individuals placed high within the hierarchy of the church, who imparted the grace and sacrality they themselves had acquired through apostolic and priestly succession dating back to the beginning times of the church.¹ The earliest rituals of ordination and consecration of persons were kept in separate libelli, the first collection of which is the Sacramentarium veronense, or Leonine sacramentary. Ordination prayers for the clergy are found within this...

  9. Chapter 4 SACRED VESSELS, OBJECTS, AND EVENTS (pp. 217-268)

    In the study of the blessings of places and persons, we have already noted how frequently medieval Christianity blessed objects and particular times, imbuing them with a power beyond their mere physical presence. But in all of these blessings, the objects or times being blessed were of secondary importance, because the rituals in question were designed primarily to bless and assist the persons and places and the instruments of their consecration. There is, however, a group of blessings that elevate objects or events to a primary position. Many of these rituals deal with items associated with particular moments in the...

  10. CONCLUSION (pp. 269-294)

    The tradition of Christian blessing was a rich, complex, and pervasive component of the culture and religion of the medieval West. From its origin in ancient Israel, blessing spread to all parts of Latin Christendom through the agency of the Roman liturgy of late antiquity, developing both within and apart from the Mass. Blessing was further developed and elaborated in the early Middle Ages through the Roman Catholic Church’s contact with Germanic peoples, who enthusiastically adopted ritual blessing as they adapted it to meet local ritual needs. This Franco-Roman tradition was first fully realized in the tenth-century Romano-Germanic pontifical, upon...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 295-316)
  12. INDEX (pp. 317-332)