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The word “benediction” comes from the Latin “benedicere,” which means “to speak well.” So in other words, when someone gives you his benediction, he is sending you on your way with a blessing and wishing you well.
Now, let me ask you…
Would you ever part company with a friend or loved one without a proper farewell? Probably not if you could help it. And why not? Because to do so would not only be bad etiquette, but it would be an offensive expression of disregard for the other person.
We have a free-standing altar in my parish. This means that while I’m serving at the altar, I do so from behind it, and with that, I can see an awful lot of what’s happening in the pews. I’m usually pretty focused on what I am doing at the time, but there is one thing that I see a few of the same people doing rather regularly, and it serves to remind me why it’s a good thing I’m not God, because if I was, every now and then the congregation would be treated to a divine display of my wrath in the form of a lightning bolt streaking across the room to smoke the Christian trying to sneak out before the Benediction.
You wouldn’t sneak away without a goodbye from someone you consider a friend, right? So why would you do it to the One you believe to be so much more, the One you claim as your Savior?
I could answer the question, but I don’t think folks would like my answer. “Too judgmental,” they’d say. “You don’t know the reason,” they’d scold. So let’s just go back to where we started, then. If the friendship is unimportant, or perhaps you don’t even really consider it to be a real friendship, you’ll be of the mind to slip away undetected. Again, why? Because you have better things to do than to spend your time this way. And besides, at least you made an appearance at the loser’s party.
“But sometimes people get pulled away unexpectedly, Reverend.”
This is true. It happened to me once back in 2011. I had to leave right after the service concluded and didn’t get a chance to shake hands with the people. Of course, I was having a mild stress-related heart attack at the time and sort of needed to get to the hospital, but hey, I get it. Sometimes there are unexpected emergencies that pull people away abruptly and there isn’t necessarily enough time for a proper goodbye. There’s room for this kind of stuff between friends, even when one of the friends happens to be the Creator of the cosmos. Still, it draws me to wonder if the same few people I see scurrying away during the Post Communion Canticle are experiencing terrifying tragedies at the exact same moment every single Sunday. Weird how that happens.
Personally, I can see only one reason for calling an abrupt end to a friendship and ducking out without a care, and that’s if the so-called compatriot sets something like the Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon before you. In my mind, this is an indicator that an unknown offense has already occurred and your chum is all but showing you the door.
The nose of this dross is the rotting sweet corn at the bottom of the bin at Walmart, a mushy compilation of all the cobs that no one wanted. And by the way, there’s an earthy sense to it, suggesting that once the manager of the produce department realized that no one was going to buy this twaddle, he took it out back and dropped it into the grass behind the dumpster.
It’s nearly the same in the mouth. There you learn the truest meaning of the descriptor “old crow,” which carries the negative connotation of feminine ugliness. This bird is ugly. And angry. With the first sip, it pulls out a pocket knife and starts to stab your tongue. That’s about it. A gored tongue. Well, maybe there’s a little bit of salted butter. Or maybe it’s blood. Or sadness. I’m not quite sure.
The finish, while medium in length, it is a little harder to describe. I suppose you could imagine you followed the manager out to the dumpster, and once he had delivered the rotting corn to its final resting place, you decided to pick up a few of the cobs and lick them clean with your gored tongue. It stings. And again, very earthy.
Nope, no benediction to be had here. The gifting of this dram is most certainly to be interpreted as a motioning toward the door coupled with a collected but firm, “Get out. Like, right now.”