Friday, March 06, 2009

The Salt Loses Its Saltness

Sigh. The Internets are abuzz with a story -- perhaps it's a hoax? Please? -- about "Blessed Christians Table Salt." It's a new product (or, let's be honest, a new marketing device for one of the oldest products in the world) developed by a retired barber in Maryland, who was tired of hearing TV chefs recommend kosher salt, and wanted a Bible-thumping alternative. 

For the record, salt is kosher by nature, and "kosher" salt is so called because its larger grains make it useful in preparing kosher meat.

If you're wondering, the man who "invented" salt is a former Roman Catholic who "now holds Bible studies in his home."  A small red flag, for some of us.  According to the stories, a portion of the profits will go to "Christian charities." How much, and which charities? Nobody's saying.  A bigger red flag.

But here's the interesting part, from our perspective:  The stuff will be blessed by an Episcopal priest.  No name is provided, surely to avoid embarrassing some poor dope to death at his next diocesan sherry-tasting. Still, we don't doubt that a priest willing to undertake the task could be found. Bear in mind, these are Episcopalians; they'll bless anything.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, whose blog, WDTRPS?, is a strangely delightful collage of liturgical translation and advice, Republican politics, Papist traditionalism, and nature photography, makes three remarks on the subject:

1. The [E]piscopal priest can wave his hands around all he wants. He cannot bless anything.

A bit harsh, but true enough from a traditional Papist perspective.  For Fr. Z, the rest of us can't bless, confect, absolve or do much of anything priestly.  We think he's wrong, but Roman Catholics might consider this before paying the premium. 

2. But he can commit a sin of scandal by giving the impression of peddling sacred things [and] if he could bless the salt and make it a sacramental, it would be a sacrilege to sell it.... [So] I would be afraid for that person’s spiritual well-being and ultimate fate.

Actually, this one is right on target.  Selling Masses, indulgences, and so forth is a very bad thing, and we can't see how this is any different.  Unless, we suppose, the priest in question refuses to accept any money.  In which case (and even failing which) we wonder why he (or she) doesn't have more priestly duties to perform.

Fr. Z's third point is refreshing:

3. You might know that exorcised and blessed salt was used in the rite for blessing water. The exorcism and blessing for salt is a fearsome thing.

Salt is of those few things actually personally addressed as a creature of God and then exorcised:

O you creature of salt, I purge you of all evil by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, who commanded by the Prophet Elisha that you be put into water in order that the sterility of the water would be healed: so that you might be rendered a purified salt for the salvation of believers, and so that you might be a healthiness of soul and body to all who consume you, and so that you may put to flight and drive out from a place in which you will have been scattered every phantom and wickedness, and cunning trap of diabolical deceit, and every unclean spirit be solemnly banished by command through Him Who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.  Amen.

Holy Church does not kid around in these exorcisms and blessings.

He's got it in Latin, too. 

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