Monday, June 16, 2008

My current whats, whys, and whens concerning the Eucharist

And as they were eating,
he took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake it,
and gave to them, and said,
Take ye: this is my body.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them:
and they all drank of it.
And he said unto them,
This is my blood of the covenant,
which is shed for many.
Mark 14:22-24 RV

I have been thinking plenty about the Eucharist in the past few weeks, in particular:
  • The Epiklesis
  • The Gloria
  • when the bells are to be rung
That may all seem rather external, or extraneous, but there you have it.

I am unsure why the term "epiklesis" has been roaming my mind. It is the moment when the Holy Spirit is called down upon the elements of bread and wine so that they may, become for us the Body and Blood of Christ. Pretty heady and mystical stuff.

I have recently read that here in Sydney, the Anglican Church would like to make the Eucharist less "special."
I was stunned by some aspects of the national church. For example, the extent to which the eucharist, administered by priests, has been elevated to an almost mystic, transcendental experience in some quarters was a shock.
Karin Sowada

What's wrong with "mystic and transcendental"? I don't get it. The whole thing is so unusual and out of the ordinary that to try and make it normal would go against what is actually happening.

The Gloria within the Anglican liturgy has had two places: at the beginning, or at the end. I am still unsure why it was changed from it's traditional place (at the beginning, after the Kyrie) to the end, just before the concluding Blessing. I have to admit, I like this later placing. After receiving the Sacraments, it makes sense to me to give this final and joyous thanks.

The bells I am referring to are altar bells. They are rung by the server during the Eucharist. I like these bells, but there are a variations as to the exact times they are to be rung. They are rung three times - once before the Words of Institution, and once at each elevation of the Host and of the Chalice, and after the Priest has recieved the Sacraments, when the congregation can come forward. It is the
timing that has me confused. It seems there are many ways, and the way I used to ring them at my old church, and the way they are to be rung at my present church are somewhat different.

How wonderful and interesting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's all about abiding

He that eateth my flesh
and drinketh my blood
abideth in me,
and I in him.
John 6:56 RV

I had a terrible weekend. I need not go into details, but it was dreadful (Let's say St John's Wort stopped working)

To be fair, things have been on a gradual decline for the past few weeks, including where I am within my spiritual development.

I believe questioning one's faith is vital for development. However, I have been feeling somewhat detached from it all of late: church, spirit, word; the whole lot.

Anyway, on Sunday, I went to Mass in my grim state and found the whole thing flat and difficult. When saying the Creed, I heard myself mumbling what I believed, but they were words; not beliefs. When it came to recieving Communion I could not look my Priest in the eye to receive the bread. Nor the Chalice assistant.
Walking back to my pew, I was relieved.

When I knelt to pray, I was overwhelmed. Tears streamed down my face. I could feel them running down my neck. My body was shaking, my mouth quivering. It was very real and uncontrollable. Then there was a slight brief taste of blood.
I felt relaxed and relieved, and was wondering why I had felt so bad. When I stood up to leave, I saw my tear splatters on the wooden floor. In embarrassment, I left without saying anything to anyone.

This experience reminded me of the reality of my faith. Wherever my head is, no matter how bleak, or "rational" or mystical, God is there. Not as an idea, or a concept, or something to question; but as an undeniable presence that goes beyond thought.

God is love;
and he that abideth in love
abideth in God,
and God abideth in him.
1 John 4:16 RV

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

But what did you see, Paul?

Johan Christoph Weigel

I must needs glory, though it is not expedient;
but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth),
such a one caught up even to the third heaven.

And I know such a man
(whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth),
how that he was caught up into Paradise,
and heard unspeakable words,
which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 RV
I awoke this morning with a strong sense of Paul. Like I had spent some time with him, or he had been around me. An unusual occurrence by any rate; moreso because I have not spent any time studying his writings.

I know why I had this feeling. I have been reading The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, in which the above quote is spoken of.

I have had a
very difficult time with Paul. Many of his diatribes about women etc have left me thinking he was a bit of difficult man. Yet this quote is very close to my thinking.

Was Paul a mystic? Does he here speak of receiving divine revelations? Out of body experiences? His conversion was certainly a mystical experience:

And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus:
and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven:
and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him,
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
cts 9:3-4 RV
How can it be that the writer who to me, most epitomises the orthodox position, can express something that even 1 John only hints at?

I believe in religious experience. To read them mentioned in the "super straight" Paul has been a minor revelation, and one that makes me aware that I while I am not orthodox, not only is there a place for people like me within the Church, we have scriptural backing for our experiences.

Now, how can I get John to hang out in the morning?