Wednesday, September 29, 2010
A last Eucharist
Its amazing how the knowledge of impending absence is affecting the way I feel about this week's Eucharist. This will be the last supper that I will preside at for a long time. The words of the liturgy seem to have acquired a hitherto undreamed of meaning and clarity as I prepare to leave a people that you have enabled me to love and serve by your grace.
Please don't misunderstand God, have no 'fear' for those I love. I know that in my absence they will be more than well provided for by you and others - Christ alone is the indispensable minister of grace (I learned that a loooong time ago!)
But I find I am torn by conflicting emotions and grief competes with joy as I prepare.
Reflecting on this, and on the words I will be saying, I am astonished to discover an absence at the heart of the Eucharist which I had not allowed myself to notice before, probably because I have always been so concerned with trying to mediate your presence God.
The words of the liturgy are very definitely all in the wrong tense -
We declare the mystery of faith
Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again ,
Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ is come again...
and we pray -
'send down your Holy Spirit' - rather than giving thanks that your Holy Spirit is already present.
In these, and so many other ways, we speak eschatalogicaly - in terms of a promised future presence - ie a very present absence! (and for the theologically aware - nope, I dont really think realized eschatology cuts it here)
Lex orandi, lex credendi - what we pray is what we believe.. in which case, liturgically speaking at least, I would have to say that the Church believes in your presence as the risen Christ by praying about Your absence!
This 'last' Eucharist will be a very special. We are a small group, who have learned to bear one another's burdens. My presence is not an essential component of this act of worship, merely a welcome one. Your presence on the other hand, is crucial. Without YOU God, the Eucharist is merely an empty ritual, a remembering less we forget.. that once, a long time ago, you loved us enough to come as one of us.. and that you promise, one day, to come again.
do this - to remember me...
like binding words on our foreheads, counting beads, or tying knots in tassels
I can find nothing in the words we say, in the liturgy we use, to suggest that you are present in anything other than the future promised to us..
which begs the question God...
is this why transubstantiation is deemed so necessary by so many?!!