Yesterday was a looong day which began at 7.30 with Morning Prayer before the 8.00 Eucharist, and ended in the pub after some wonderful peace, space and inspiration thanks to The Fountain. As we stood in warm darkness round the altar, where bread was broken and shared (take some bread and give it to someone you don't know well...or several people....receive as much as you are offered...no limits....) the staggering reality of it all nearly overwhelmed me. I'd spent much of the day assisting at the Eucharist, together with a battery of servers, with bells rung, candles elevated and beautiful settings of the Agnus Dei,- but while we shared that loaf it seemed to me that all that had gone before was an elaborate way of ensuring that we kept our distance. In our liturgy, the `Prayer of Humble Access' ("We do not presume to come to this your table...") is the last prayer of the congregation before they come to receive the bread and wine. It's a good prayer, but its current position, immediately after the invitation to Communion "Draw near with faith", always feels like an additional stalling device. I imagine the Lord, tapping his fingers a tad impatiently, thinking to himself "I've told them to come to me....why don't they just come?"....and it hit me last night that all the ritual with which we surround that moment of receiving God in bread and wine has something of the same stalling quality.
I was blown away by the immediacy of our Communion with God and with each other at The Fountain....no fuss...we were invited to share, to partake, and we did.
Yesterday the Church remembered George Herbert (whose poetry was the subject of my never completed PhD) and as I drove home from Gloucester I realised that in the course of the day I'dbeen living through possibly his greatest poem,Love (iii)
"So I did sit and eat"