10 Thoughts on the Blessing of Asparagus

It seems that Worcester Cathedral recently had a service for the blessing of asparagus.

As this is a matter that might be seen to have consequences for the wider Anglican Communion, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts.

  1. There can be no justification for blessing asparagus as asparagus is never mentioned positively in the bible. There is simply no biblical case for blessing asparagus. None at all. If God had wanted asparagus to be blessed, then surely Jesus would have blessed asparagus at the last supper. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
  2. In fact, we know that asparagus should not be blessed because Genesis says so. “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, [asparagus] and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.”  (Genesis 4: 3-4). You can’t pick and choose what the bible says. God’s holy word is clear and lasts forever.
  3. The blessing of asparagus promotes and validates the asparagus lifestyle. How will the church as a whole be able to maintain moral standards in one part of the world if asparagus is blessed in another? (Matthew 5:48)
  4. If we start blessing asparagus then it automatically follows that people will demand blessings for other kinds of vegetables. Although one might not personally object to the blessing of asparagus, one must take into account where this might lead. God will not be faithful to those who bless asparagus. (Amos 5:14)
  5. It would be entirely acceptable to offer a Thanksgiving for the Picking of Asparagus provided there are no rings used to hold the asparagus and any blessing must be upon the asparagus pickers and not the asparagus itself. (Ezekiel 44:30). The blessing of asparagus itself is sinful.
  6. The Archbishops have issued the following statement: “No asparagus is a problem, or an issue. Asparagus is made in the image of God. All of the asparagus, without exception, is loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there is simply asparagus. (Romans 8:28) However, in order to maintain the unity of the church, it remains the case that asparagus blessings fall outside of that which is permitted for clergy of the Church of England following the last agreed Lambeth Conference statement on the matter. Clergy should continue to explore the maximum freedom possible when encountering asparagus whilst remaining within current guidelines. (Philippians 4:5)
  7. It remains the case that we all strive towards good disagreement (Philippians 4:2) about asparagus blessings whilst forbidding entirely the actual blessing of asparagus
  8. You cannot serve God and asparagus. The love of asparagus is the root of all evil. Do not associate with other eaters of asparagus. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
  9. There is an additional argument against the blessing of asparagus which stems from tradition. There should be no blessings of asparagus until the major churches who have the apostolic succession make an agreed statement on asparagus. This might be achieved in the form of an Ecumenical Asparagus Council of the Church however there remains some disagreement about who has the authority to call such a Council. (1 Corinthians 11:2)
  10. Always remember that God loves asparagus and that there have been some fine and courageous examples of self-giving asparagus throughout history. Many people are able to testify that some of their best friends have even eaten [unblessed] asparagus. So long as the church exercises gracious restraint in blessing asparagus, it will be possible for people to hear about the unique gifts that asparagus brings to the world. It may even be that God has a purpose for asparagus. (Exodus 9:16)

the offering of the asparagus

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Comments

  1. Fr. John-Julian says:

    Oh, dear! If the photographs are accurate, what is being blessed is not only asparagus, but actual FEMALE asparagus. (Yes, asparagus is dioecious: it has both male and female plants!)

    Not only that, but from one of our American Founding Fathers: “”A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreable Odour…” (from a actual “Letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels,” Benjamin Franklin, circa 1781)

  2. Thank you for your erudite and wise words on the blessing of asparagus. We must also take note of those churches in our worldwide Anglican Communion for whom asparagus is an abomination.

    please be careful about writing in such a way again as those older brothers and sisters with weak bladders have to take care when they laugh. I never thought they would dry in time for evensong

  3. Rosemary Hannah says:

    That is truly splendid Kelvin ad must surely become required reading for all those considering all the arguments surrounding the issue.

  4. Richard Ashby says:

    Is this a communion breaking issue? After all there are some parts of the church which will deny that there is any asparagus in their midst, asparagus being a corrupting import from the polluted west and a form of cultural imperialism which they hate. What does Gafcon say? And does HTB and ‘Anglican’ Mainstream countenance the blessing of asparagus. I bet they don’t.

  5. Gretchen Pritchard says:

    Other things it is important for Anglicans to know about asparagus: its derivation.

    ASPARAGUS. Plant cultivated for its edible shoots, late 14c., aspergy; late Old English sparage, from Latin asparagus (in Medieval Latin often sparagus), from Greek asparagos/aspharagos, which is of uncertain origin; perhaps with euphonic a- + PIE root *sp(h)er(e)g- “to spring up,” but Beekes suggests “it is rather a substrate word,” based in part on the p/ph variation.

    In Middle English, asperages sometimes was regarded as a plural, with false singular aspergy. By 16c. the word had been Englished as far as sperach, sperage. The classical Latin form of the word is attested in English from mid-16c., but was limited at first to herbalists and botanists; the common form from 17c.-19c. was the folk-etymologized variant sparrowgrass, during which time asparagus had “an air of stiffness and pedantry” [John Walker, “Critical Pronouncing Dictionary,” 1791]. (Online Etymology Dictionary)

    One of these days I shall write a monograph on my hypothesis that asparagus was associated with holy water in the medieval church, thanks to the similarity between “asparagus” and “asperges.” Quite possibly the fully-sprouted “ferns” of the asparagus plant were used for sprinkling holy water, especially at Whitsun when they would have been past their prime as a table vegetable. So far no manuscript evidence has been found for this hypothesis, but that has not dissuaded me from being convinced of its correctness.

  6. Bless you, Kelvin, for your delicious sense of humour. I see the GAFCON Primates are already getting their episcopal knickers in a twist about the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) contemplating the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions.

    Keep up the good humour, we’re going to need it into the future!

    Agape from Aotearoa (ACANZP) Fr. Ron

  7. Bro David says:

    I can testify to the ability of asparagus to “spring up.” When in season I have myself driven along highways and byways in the Big Sky Country and picked fresh asparagus from ditch banks on the way home to lunch. It was a delightful addition to the meal.
    As to how it managed to “spring up” wild in Montana, I have no idea, asparagus is not indigenous to the New World.
    I had oven roasted asparagus with finely chopped garlic and white balsamic vinegar with my lunch today. It went well with my bacon & cheese 3-egg omelet! 🙂
    It was green asparagus, not that sissified/prissified white asparagus you lot grow in Europe. :p
    I approve of blessing asparagus in church. We bless pretty much everything else, why not a nutritious vegetable?
    However, I’m not sure the guy dressed as a giant apsparagus was necessary. You’ll have to explain the guy in the red & white outfit though. I’m afraid that went over my head. (Being but 160 cm [5’3”], many things do.)

    • I think you’ll find that that is St George

      • Kate Simpson says:

        As a Vale of Evesham resident and used to asparagus festivities every year, a couple of points for clarification. The chap dressed in a giant asparagus costume is GUS (AsparaGUS). He’s involved every year, so right he got to be involved in the Church service too. And St George attends every year as well. The reason St George is there, is that English asparagus is seasonal. The season starts on St George’s Day (hence St George) and finishes on midsummer’s eve.

  8. Meg Rosenfeld says:

    Do you think that our burdens in this world all stem from asparagus? I would like to root out that be-leaf.

  9. Ray Michener says:

    A member of our parish has suggested using the hymn: “Hail Thee, Vegetable Day” during the procession.

    • Meg Rosenfeld says:

      “Hail Thee, Vegetable Day” is a brilliant suggestion, since there are three sets of words already in use, and each one could be adapted to spotlight a different vegetable.

    • Martha Underwood says:

      That would be hilarious.

      • Meg Rosenfeld says:

        Re: “Hail thee, vegetable day”: Lettuce rejoice over all the blessings we’ve bean receiving. And more may turnip later!

    • Gretchen Pritchard says:

      LOLOL

  10. George Armstrong says:

    This is why our Anglican church needs a monitoring authority – to weed out [weed I say] such abominations. Now with worms it is entirely different: Some years ago in California, in my capacity as a priest within the apostolic succession, I blessed a worm farm and it is reliably reported that the worms are farming well. I have much more to say on this and many other subject [as my former friends can confirm] but if I continued the world itself could not contain the books that were written.

  11. David Beadle says:

    I’ve no objection to asparagus being enjoyed by consenting adults in private. It’s just once they start rubbing your face it.

  12. On an Ecumenical basis blessing anything seems to be the flavor of the day. Perhaps we need to consider the ‘sacramental nature’ of creation and than we can see that Asparagus should be blessing us.

  13. I am glad that the church doesn’t condone blessing of things without full discussion and possibly several decades of deep thought. I know that I sleep better at night for knowing that this is the case. I am bit worried though as last year I blessed some bees ~ twice! Am I going to hell?

    • Is there a written liturgy for The Re-Blessing of Bees?

      • Meg Rosenfeld says:

        isn’t there something about this in “Jesus Christ, superstar”? You know, the part where they sing “What’s the buzz, tell us what’s a-happening.”

      • Helen says:

        In the copy of The Scots Gardner [sic] owned by John Gray of Haddington, the Episcopal Minister of Aberlady who was removed after the Restoration and returned to Haddington, there are many instructions as to bees. John Gray added annotations which suggest that he kept bees. His note for May is ‘Now set your bees at liberty’. All the above is pure fact but I speculate that this shows that Scottish Episcopalians were pioneers in the development of Liberation Beeology.

  14. Bro David says:

    Recipe in todays Seattle Times –
    Asparagus Soup for Dad
    Organic ingredients — especially for the broth, cream and sour cream — really make a difference here.

    Serves 4 to 6
    2 pounds asparagus
    3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
    1 small yellow onion
    3 tablespoons butter
    ¼ cup whipping cream
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    Sour cream for dolloping
    Salt and fresh-ground pepper

    How to prep asparagus: Rinse each stalk well, then chop an inch or so off the butt end; discard those bits. My family then stores the stalks, up to several days, at room temperature standing upright in a bowl of water; this (perhaps apocryphally) is thought to rejuice them. When you’re ready to cook, bend each stalk until it snaps partway up from the butt end; magically, the top is the good part to eat, but the bottoms are also used for this soup (or you can hoard them in your freezer for future asparagus stock).

    For the soup: Bring the butt ends of the asparagus to a boil in the broth, then reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes. Strain and reserve broth (you can smush extra liquid out of asparagus butts with a wooden spoon if you’re motivated); discard asparagus butts. Sauté onion in butter until soft, sprinkling with a little salt and pepper. Cut the asparagus into about 2-inch pieces; reserve the dozen or so prettiest, smallest tips for garnish. Add the stock and the asparagus pieces to the butter and onion; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, until pieces are soft to the bite. Blend in batches or with an immersion blender until fairly smooth. Stir in cream and then lemon juice; taste and season with salt and pepper (it’ll want some of both). Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and asparagus tips, plus a little pepper over the top.

  15. I love the idea that asparagus can be either male or female. One wonders whether it can regenerate from one of the species – like some other parts of the created order. God’s world is so overwhelmingly inclusive, one wonders why the Church balks at blessing any part of it, especially us humans, made in God’s Image and Likeness. “Christus Resurrrexit! Alleluia!”

  16. Neil Patterson says:

    All commentators should seek out the actual denunciation of the asparagus by Christian Concern – the ever-amazing Andrea Minchiniello-Williams was on West Midlands local news decrying the liturgy!

  17. John Moyle says:

    I don’t believe asparagus can be blessed unless it really wants to be. I have seen little evidence of consenting asparagus

  18. Father Ron Smith says:

    Good thought that. If one uses asparagus for the liturgicsl asperges could it be considered as already having been blessed – by virtue of having been immersed in a Holy Water stoup?

  19. John Richmond says:

    But asparagus makes one’s pee smell funny, so it has that against it. No one has mentioned that, I believe. Surely, a grave concern. On the other hand, our dog is fond of asparagus. So there you are. Beg pardon for any non sequiturs.

  20. Robert Carver says:

    Kelvin (26/04/2017 at 15:11): well, Synodically, yes, no and May bee (that bee tomorrow). At least in the Scottish Apiscopal Hive (Continuing), the liturgy for ornery bees is unwritten. Only for the heavier umblebees has there ever been a written liturgid.

    Regrettably, the office hymn listed for this Solemn Apiaristic Hour is the vacuous, vapid, turgid, flaccid, retch-inducing, mass-anæsthetising, musically-bereft, poetically bereft, shopping-mall-ready and one-wingèd ‘Bee still for the….’, so beloved by The Omega Project. Now don’t bee thinking that I dislike it or anything – apart from those minor quibbles it’s ‘awesome’. Yes and luverly, like the rest of the gawnOrff 1980s processed cheese in Barbie hymnbooks. Even the oh-so-tackily-‘modern’ plastic bigscreens can’t take the STING out of the bowdlerised, er, extraordinary renditions that PowerPoint inflicts on those hapless enough to gawp at them.

    So shall we all now-the-bee in prairie; lettuce spray.

    As devout Pharimoans, beating on our abdomoans, we thank thee God that we are not as other bees are, who though elect, beeing less fortunate than ourselves, of bumble origin, less privileged and having little sense of Welbybeeing, find themselves through no fault of their own unable to pollinate this gratuitous bile-rich rant (G A T St Luke, 18,11), which is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees, to build a porch so treach’rous (Vulgart sed non Anglicorum Exslt).

    • Father Ron Smith says:

      BEE – YU – TIFULL! – Waxingly lyriucal!

      • Meg Rosenfeld says:

        In the American Episcopal hymnal, there are two hymns written to the glorious Welsh tune, Hyfrydol. Each one mentions an insect, one of them evil (the sinful flea) and the other good (pure and spotless lettuce bee.) It’s a real honey of a hymn.

  21. Graeme Durie says:

    Brussel sprouts are beyond redemption and attempting a blessing of them would be a waste of time.

    • Bro David says:

      Then I shall eat them unredeemed!
      I love brussels sprouts. Pan fried in a little oilive oil with diced onion and bacon bits. Yum!!

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