Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have an expression, “the liturgy after the liturgy”–meaning the rest of the week, flowing from Sunday and returning to Sunday. The Body of Christ sent out (the origin of our English term, “Mass”– Ite, missa est, meaning, “Go, it is the sending”). As those intimately joined to Jesus the Christ in baptism, we who are sent share in Jesus the Messiah’s common priesthood, as well as His identities as prophet and king/shepherd/pastor (CCC para. 1546).
Okay, so how is it, practically that you and I as baptized believers truly exercise that priesthood during the week? In the “liturgy after the liturgy” of our lives?
An especially visible way, is through sacramentals.
“sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men [and women] are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy (CCC para. 1667).
Blessings are “first” among all sacramentals. Blessings can be of people, objects, places, etc. and usually involve invoking the name of Jesus and making the sign of the cross (CCC para. 1671).
The power of a blessing flows from the baptismal priesthood given to us in and through Christ Jesus as baptized believers. As the Church teaches, “every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless” (CCC para. 1669). We consecrate the created order to, for, and through God. We are sanctified (aka “made holy”) as is the created world. The Church teaches, “there is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God” (CCC para. 1670). The liturgy after the liturgy is expansive, indeed!
“Liturgy” itself derives from a word meaning the public work done on behalf of others. The Mass is liturgy we the baptized do or participate in, for ourselves–yes–but also for the sake of the world. The Eucharist and all liturgy, each in a mysterious way, is for the “life of the world” (John 6:51), not merely for those physically present–or even just for those joined to Christ’s Body. For the life of the world. What an amazing, humbling responsibility this is, that Jesus has shared with us! (Does Jesus know how messed up we are? Yes. And yet, God still uses us to bless and consecrate the world! Amazing!)
Are there some blessings that lay people should not give, that are reserved for the ordained, ministerial priesthood? Yes.
In general, “the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons)” (CCC para. 1669). For example, blessings within Mass (clearly an ecclesial and sacramental setting), belong first to the bishop [if present], then priest, or the blessing of the water before a baptism–an ecclesial and sacramental act. You get the idea 😉 The vast majority of people, places, objects, locations, situations, etc. are not part of the Church’s sacramental or ecclesial life in a direct way, and thus are wide open for any member of the common/baptized priesthood to exercise his/her ability in Christ, to bless.
Keep the name of Jesus, the sign of the cross, and (if you have it) some holy water handy–and you’re all set to be a conduit of the grace of the Holy Spirit in our world.