Thursday, March 27, 2008

Benedictio contra sternumenta

The Blessing Against Sneezes

My four-year-old daughter recently asked why one of our relatives responds to someone’s sneeze with the expression, “God bless you,” while my wife and I are in the habit of saying merely, “Bless you.” I replied that the sayings were equivalent, and that our habit was to leave the divine agent unexpressed, but assumed.

This started me thinking how one might expand the Benedictio contra sternumenta (or is there a better name for it?), i.e., what else might be assumed, even in the fuller three-word version, “God bless you.”

I think the following is about as detailed as you would want to get. I may use it the next time I hear someone sneeze. I assume it will make the sneezer feel like I’ve put some thought into my blessing, instead of making a merely customary comment that really has no significance.

Here is my new Benedictio contra sternumenta:

May the Lord our God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and His Son Jesus Christ who has redeemed us from all our transgressions, and Their Holy Spirit, who has inspired the divine scriptures, bless thee that this sneeze not portend any descent from that measure of bodily health that thou dost now enjoy, so that thou wilt be strong in body, mind, and spirit, both now and through eternity, Amen and Amen.

I believe the archaic second person singular pronouns are essential in such situations.

Suggestions for improvements?

2 comments:

Michael Jackson said...

I think one more Amen would fill it out nicely. It is kind of short.

I love Miriam. She is so inquisitive.

Adam McCollum said...

I assume you are going to post the Hebrew ברכת עטישה soon!