Monday, March 20, 2017

Meanwhile, back in Bemerton*...

...George Herbert is trying his best to help us to understand the extraordinary thing that is prayer.
The Church's banquet, he says..., taking us simultaneously to both the Eucharistic feast, offered Sunday by Sunday and often in between...the meal which gives the Church her identity and her food for the journey...and to the heavenly banquet of which it is a foretaste. 
His sense of the coherence of Church Militant and Church Triumphant shines through so much of his work and here he pauses to reflect that prayer, this most basic of staples in our spiritual diet is something that gives us a glimpse of that proximity with God that will sustain us in heaven forever.
You cannot have a banquet on your own, so by using this image Herbert proclaims his conviction that prayer needs to be both personal and corporate...We gather around God's table together.
Of course, prayer is as essential to our spiritual well-being as any staple is to our physical health - but it is always more than this, - not just a drill to be practised but a lavish gift to celebrate, a high feast which deserves our best selves - though it is always available, always open to us, even  if we turn up in no state to really engage with it.
There is no fear at this banquet that any guest will be turned away for wearing the wrong clothes. Rather the host will provide outfits for us, kneel and wash our feet before we feast.

*Bemerton is the village close to Salisbury where Herbert served as parish priest for the three years of his ordained ministry leading up to his death. Do visit if you can. The church is tiny, plain and steeped in holiness

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