The Eucharist – Part 5 | ‘Being sent out’
This letter comes to you with a sense of awe! The longer I spend in and around the school, I can’t help comparing the timetable, the activities, the sport, the music, the chorister schedules, let alone the academic work, the personal and pastoral care, with the school as it was when I was previously Chaplain back in the early 1980s. To be honest, apart from the buildings and, of course, the Cathedral itself, there has been nothing short of paradigm shift in approach to education of boys or girls, with ‘well-being’, it is hoped, as the basis of all that happens. Huge commitment for children, staff and parents…
One significant change has been the attitude towards religion and spirituality. The latter word ‘spirituality’ in our culture lies more comfortably than does the word ‘religion’. There are many and complex reasons for this. Perhaps the most significant is the most uncomfortable. By way of a confession to you, I’m aware that I have been lukewarm in my own spirituality. I haven’t ‘modelled’ what it is to have a strong spiritual attitude towards living, as the drive in me has so often been about being popular and acceptable. There’s no point in me blaming ‘the Church’ or any religious organisation, as I have to take responsibility for my own choices, attitudes and, indeed, beliefs.
The simplicity of Christianity is stark. God is to be found in the love I have for my neighbour, whoever that neighbour is, from the homeless or the well-to-do. ‘Love one another’. That demands a kind of fire in the ‘spiritual belly’. The Spirit is Fire. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmentalist’s oft quoted criticism ‘Blah! Blah! Blah!’ can easily be applied to me!
The Eucharist comes to a close. [Part 5]
You may remember that I described the ‘process’ of the Eucharist as having five parts: the five wounds of Jesus at his crucifixion are a metaphor for the process [Hands, feet, side]. Here’s a little reminder:
- Gathering and welcome
- The Confession
- The Word
- The Sacrament
- The sending out
Repentance and forgiveness are crucial in the Way of Christ. Perhaps the reason why there’s some concern as to whether the outcomes of COP26 will be nearly enough to address the global crisis that we are now in, with climate change, is that we as countries have not repented of our abuse the planet. And that includes me! To apologise – really apologise – is, of course, to give away power and that is, perhaps, too much for Political leaders, and to one honest, on a personal basis I find it a challenge. However, experience shows that repentance is paradoxically hugely enabling and inspiring. Try it! And there it is right at the start of the Eucharist!
So, when it comes to the end of the Eucharist, the priest who presides, sends us out to love and serve. There’s a movement here. You ‘come into’ the Eucharist, in order to ‘leave’; enabled and inspired as you have received the Body of Christ. Christ is in you, the hope of Glory. You might argue that an empty Church is a good sign – maybe men, women and children have just left to do the work of loving. Everything, all elements of the Eucharist, words, music, singing, listening silence, food, touch, taste, sight are geared towards leaving to love! If they do not, then you and I are caught inside a privatised ritual that is in terrible danger of being little to do with following the Way of Christ.
Loving is costly. As this is ‘Remembrance’ week, there will be a focus on those who have died in war. War creates, arguably, the greatest suffering that humanity can inflict. However, it also can awaken humanity to the essential and immediate need to love and love in a costly way. May the souls of all those who have died rest in peace, but may the work of Peace be immediate and personal. Thus, the end of the Eucharist: ‘Go, in Peace to Love and Serve.’
You have my prayer and blessing,
Exeter Cathedral School