What do you say when someone sneezes? Do you bless them? I often do just out of habit. I will hear someone sneeze on the other side of the store and automatically say “God bless you”.
Wikipedia gives several different origins for the phrase, favorites being:
One explanation holds that the custom originally began as an actual blessing. Gregory I became Pope in AD 590 as an outbreak of the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of chanters through the streets. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing (“God bless you!”) became a common effort to halt the disease.
Another explanation suggests that people used to believe that a person’s soul could be thrown from their body when they sneezed, that sneezing otherwise opened the body to invasion by the Devil or evil spirits, or that sneezing was the body’s effort to force out an invading evil presence. In these cases, “bless you” or “God bless you” is used as a sort of shield against evil.
Whatever the origin, I like saying it. I like to think that for that brief moment I am offering Gods blessing for a loved one or a total stranger. I am saying a short prayer that whoever it is that sneezed, gets a blessing from God. That they might see Gods fingerprint in their life.
So to you, my friend, God bless you.
We are so blessed, in so many ways. Too often we don’t see our blessings. Thank you for all you give us: family, friends, your love, and your son Jesus.
In his name,