Friday, April 26, 2013

A view from some distance up the candle

Once upon a time, in my first years out of university, I was part of the choir of St John the Divine Kennington - and it was here that I first encountered Benediction...and was completely overwhelmed.
Though I'd grown up amid the rarefied Anglo-Catholic air of Chichester diocese my family were firmly morning-only worshippers (the restful silence of 8.00 for preference) so I had never even dreamed that such exotic delights existed!
That first time, in the chapel at St Gabriel's college, I had no IDEA what was going on - simply that I seemed to be in a place where prayer was easier, more valid, than anywhere ever before.
I loved the externals - the altar crowded with lights, the clouds of Rosa mystica incense - and I loved too the way we could somehow slip into the ongoing tide of prayer that stretched through the centuries as we sang the plainsong hymns "O Salutaris hostia" "Tantum ergo sacramentum"
All my senses rejoiced in something that was so very very beautiful...and I found the theology behind it  beautiful too.

I have never doubted for a second that Christ is fully present in the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist. My own experiences of meeting Him there time after time are proof enough for me.
I always find it easiest to pray in churches where the Sacrament is reserved - indeed, it was almost a "deal breaker" for me in considering possible jobs.
I don't understand the how and whys...and I don't think that I need to.
I just know that, for me, this is a solid reality - and a place where heaven and earth touch.'s really not surprising that in Exposition and Benediction I feel very close to God...for it's a time of quiet reflection kneeling before Christ, present in the consecrated Host upon the altar...and then a moment when we receive a blessing that strengthens and inspires us.

It's a moment when words are unimportant and when even my ceaseless background chatter of ideas is stilled.
A moment out of time - when we are swept up into the unbounded present that is eternity.

It's something I long to experience more often...
I find it so hard to shut up and just BE before God but here it is both easy and blessed.

As to what actually happens in practical terms - the best summary I've come across is here  (scroll down to find it)...or, better still, there's a brilliant children's resource also offered by Little St Mary's - where they probably do this better than most places!

And if, for you, this reads like complete nonsense - confirmation that I'm dottier than a dalmatian with measles - then think of this. You can sing the Tantum Ergo most beautifully to the tune of "I'm forever blowing bubbles"! Try it and see - and I bet Jesus enjoys it hugely!


Anonymous said...

Yeah... This... I first encountered it at Cambridge, fresh from my Baptist youth but hurtling towards a sacramental understanding at speed.. This was what had been missing.. It was like wading into a warm lake you could drink from.. Total rehydration. I went to Fisher House & Little St Marys & drank deep!

Perpetua said...

I came from a Nonconformist background and was confirmed as an Anglican at the age of 30. Even though I have never been part of an Anglo-Catholic parish, my spirituality is strongly inclined in that direction and I recognise so much of what you write here. Lovely post.

ramtopsrac said...

I am fascinated by this and the links you give. As I struggle through ordination training one of the things that bothers me about whether or not I am suitable material to be a priest, is that I have never 'encountered Christ' in the sacrament of what a low church girl is getting to describe as the Eucharist. This feels wrong. Surely I should, almost must?! To venerate the reserved sacrament (we don't even have an aumbry) would feel strange, and the Latin incomprehensible (so I'm very grateful for the Little St. Mary's link) but as one who also suffers from a butterfly mind which I think gets in the way of me connecting with Christ at the Eucharist, I'd be willing to try anything. It must happen somewhere near NE Hampshire occasionally!

Thank you so much for sharing.