by John Mallon
The Blessing of St. John’s Wine
By transforming pre-Christian customs the Church gave new meaning to pagan practices such as the sacrificial libation by giving them Christian content. In honor of different saints the early Church blessed wine as a Minne (love drink). Among these blessings has remained above all the blessing of St. John’s Wine (Johanniswein). The legend tells of the apostle having blessed a cup of poisoned wine and thus having freed it from its poison. Legend tells of how a serpent left the wine after St. John made the sign of the Cross over it, and how afterwards St. John drank the wine and suffered no ill effects. St. John’s wine reminds us of the commandment to love one another, which St. John constantly preached. The custom of blessing Johanniswein continues on the Feast of St. John (December 27) to this very day in central Europe. The priest blesses wine after Mass and the celebration is called Johannisminne. At the meal on Johannestag (St. John’s Day) the family toasts: “Trink die Liebe des heiligen Johannes.” (“Let us drink the love of St. John!”) The wine is kept through the year for special occasions such as weddings, and given to the sick, and the dying after they receive Viaticum.
This Blessing is given at the final blessing of the Mass:
A reading from the Book of Sirach:
Wine is very life to man if taken in moderation. Does he really live who lacks the wine which was created for his joy? Joy of heart, good cheer and merriment are wine drunk freely at the proper time. Headache, bitterness and disgrace is wine drunk amid anger and strife. More and more wine is a snare for the fool; it lessens his strength and multiplies his wounds. Rebuke not your neighbor when wine is served nor put him to shame when he is merry; use no harsh words with him and distress him not in the presence of others.
Or: 1 John 4: 7–12
V: Praise the Lord for he is good.
R: Thank the Lord for he is good.
V: Wine gladdens the heart of men.
R: Thank the Lord for he is Good.
Let us Pray
O Lord our God you give us wine as fruit of the earth and the work of human hands. Your son Jesus Christ has chosen wine as the sign of the New Covenant in his blood.
Bless + this wine which we drink in honor of the holy apostle John. Let us experience that you are the Lord who gladdens the hearts of men, and that you our Lord are the author of community. We ask these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
When the wine is drunk these words are said:
“Drink the love of St. John!”