When you recite a general blessing, do you know what you’re actually asking for? Yes, you’re essentially asking for abundance and hope. Moreover, you’re requesting protection. Protection from life’s daily obstacles, protection from the negativity that diminishes hope, and protection for your heart to still find hope.
The thing about blessings is they are often uncredited. Not only are their specific origins unknown, but there are a number of ways the blessings are used. However, what is great about blessings is you do not necessarily need to be from a specific heritage to use them. Irish blessings are commonly used in wedding ceremonies, family gatherings, and other special occasions; however, the majority of the people using them do not necessarily have Irish ties.
One of the most popular Irish blessings is “May the Road Rise to Meet You”. The blessing says:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
The general blur of historical background is applicable to this Irish blessing, when general questions are asked: Where does the Irish blessing come from? and Who wrote “May the Road Rise to Meet You”? Despite all of the cross-stitch patterns hung on many walls around the world and lines appearing in musicals, no one knows exactly where this traditional phrase came from.
There are rumors that trace the prayer back to St. Patrick because it is similar to his other writings, but there is no proof that solidifies the attribution to him. Regardless of who actually curated the blessing, the Irish message connects centuries of people who faithfully recited the words to carry on in hope and in their faith.
The Irish have a deep appreciation for all things nature and outdoors. The scenery is always portrayed in a beautiful sense and supports the connection with God and early Christianity. In this particular blessing elements such as the wind, the sun, and the rain are included. God interacts with His people through the beauties that lie within nature.
With that in mind, taking a deeper look at nature will help us better appreciate the world around us. There are three main images in the Irish prayer:
"May the wind be always at your back.”
The wind in this passage relates to the lack of hardship that the blessing is wishing you. As Christians we know that it is unrealistic to experience zero obstacles. The reality is many of the obstacles and hurdles we undergo are the building blocks that shape us and help us create a more well-rounded self.
With that said, you would never wish someone (especially in a blessing) for just the right amount of hardships and challenges that they’re able to climb. Everyone, even the author of this Irish blessing, knew that there will be difficulties and the only thing anyone can do is wish someone well.
"May the sun shine warm upon your face;”
The sun appears to be connected to God’s mercy. According to NIV Bible study guides, the sun’s ancient roots are connected to God’s mercy. For example in Luke 1:78, “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven.” And again in Malachi 4:2, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
Some translations believe that the word “rise” is actually translated to mean “succeed”. With rise and succeed having similar perceptive meanings of being successful, it is wise to infer that the sun rises and God’s purpose for us and the love he has for us is immoveable – no matter what we qualify success to be. God’s love keeps the sun rising and provides us with the hope to cling onto as we approach new chapters and beginnings in life.
"The rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,"
In the “May the Road Rise to Meet You” poem, the connection to ancient Irish farmers is very apparent. In ancient times, rain was considered to be a symbol of God’s provision. The green grass, the beautiful sturdy trees, and the elegant flowers wouldn’t exist without a steady amount of rain.
These Irish blessing words remind us of the provisions that God blesses us with. We are nurtured through prayer and Scripture – that is provided by God. This provision reinforces the connection that many apply when speaking of nature and God. The world that surrounds us (nature) is His creation. When we are feeling low and challenged, we can take comfort in nature because it is His way of caring for our soul and spirit – nothing will grow without water, ourselves included.
This blessing is a reminder that God will protect us. Part of protection means providing hope, shelter, and perseverance. The Irish prayer “May the Road Rise to Meet You” emphasizes all of these things. In Celtic Christianity, really in any form of Christianity, it is a given that low times will occur; however, your boundless and relentless faith in Him will help you prevail. Most of the time we forget about the teachings and how the lessons will shape us, but remembering Irish blessings, like this, will provide reassurance for our soul. Rising and succeeding, when the road becomes challenging, is a great reminder that we can all use every day.