Saturday, June 18, 2022
Sunday, June 05, 2022
Saturday, June 04, 2022
This was the final slide at the final Mass of this year’s On Fire Mission conference, there to convey the information that, though we weren’t going to attempt to take the Blessed Sacrament for a walk in the grounds our final blessing would come not through human words but through the Benediction of the Sacrament.
But for me, this was also a short-hand for a series of beautiful, precious encounters that I had with Christ in the Sacrament during that wonderful season at On Fire. - and indeed, a lifetime of graced moments which have ensured that my theology of Eucharist is incontrovertibly that of Real Presence.
I don’t think I ever really doubted it. I grew up amid the incense-laden heights of Sussex Anglo-Catholicism. Even my beloved honorary mother, who self-identified as a heathen, was very clear indeed that she was “HIGH heathen” and all my early experiences of worship were full of awe, wonder, and multi-sensory delight. I’m not sure that my Confirmation and 1st Communion, aged 13, were remarkable in themselves, but I do know that I had a real sense of Jesus slipping his hand into mine at some of the trickiest moments of my teens, and I recognised that those experiences of his closeness were in some way tied to the whole business of Communion.
It wasn’t, though, til I joined the choir of St John the Divine, Kennington, when I landed in London after university, that I really began to grasp what was going on. Once a month the choir sang Evensong with Benediction at the chapel at St Gabriel’s college down the road, and though Evensong had been my spiritual life-line during my student days, college chapels offered glorious music but not in my experience Eucharistic devotion, so I had less than no idea what to expect.
The choir sat at the back of the chapel, I’m short-sighted and anyway, and that first Sunday evening I didn’t really know that I SHOULD be looking out for anything in particular as the liturgy moved from the familiar territory of Evensong into something completely different, completely wonderful.
I’ve no idea at what point it was that I found myself completely bowled over by a wave of love that brought me to my knees, and left me there, head bowed, for the rest of the service. I just know that suddenly that reassuring hand was back in mine, that I knew without question that I was utterly beloved and that, no matter what life looked like, everything at the deepest level really was alright.
And….it has been that way ever since.
No words – just Jesus.
Just Jesus in the Sacrament, offering, quietly, to hear my confession as I waited close to the tabernacle for an available priest at On Fire 3 years ago…
Jesus flooding the space with light and beauty and love and peace as I knelt this year in a once soul-less conference room that was suddenly the best, the only place to stay and sing, and experienced the glorious blend of Compline and Benediction.
Jesus, wonderfully, being taken from the tabernacle to join worshippers at a Forest Church experience just as I (this time properly equipped with a fellow priest ready to hear my confession) had said “I’d LIKE to meet for Sacrament of Reconciliation close to Jesus but I rather think that the meeting room is in use”...so that I was able to kneel close by, under a tree, so very conscious of his presence that it was absolutely as the hymn has it
“and in his ear all trustingly, I told my tale of misery...”
No. It makes no sense at all – but all the same, for me it is deeply, wonderfully, true.
I’m not sure why I’m writing, really. I guess so that when I hit one of those times when God feels a little more distant, I have a little altar in the wilderness to remind me of precious encounters.
But really, I should heed that wise advice
“No words – just Jesus”.