One of Denver’s smallest Catholic churches is keeper of some of the most ancient Christian traditions.
On the feast of the Transfiguration, Aug. 6, parishioners of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church gathered fruit and symbols of the fruits of their labor for a blessing.
The first-fruits blessing dates back to the early Church when the first harvest’s fruits were offered to God in hopes of receiving his blessing over crops.
Father Michael O’Loughlin, pastor of the Byzantine Church, performs the blessing annually for his parish.
“The blessing of fruits and first fruits began back in the ancient Church when it was a harvest time for grapes,” he said. “It happened around early August so it became associated with the Transfiguration.”
Over time the blessing came to include a blessing over faithful’s occupations.
“In our parish we not only bless grapes and other fruit, but people will bring in their school books, parents will bring in pacifiers, their ID badge for work—whatever is a sign of their occupation,” Father O’Loughlin said.
The blessing offers parishioners a chance to join their secular life with their church life.
“This is another way of people experiencing the true mingling of their daily lives with the life of Christ and the life of the Church,” he said.
The blessing is also performed as a celebration of Christ’s transfiguration, when the apostles glimpsed Christ transform on the top of Mount Tabor.
Grapes are symbolic of the transfiguration as they may be transformed into wine and then into the blood of Christ through the sacrifice of the Mass.
“The idea of transfiguring or transforming and changing grapes into the blood of Christ eventually, and the receiving the blood of Christ—it changes us into God’s children.”