Category: Ponderings

My lover dies tomorrow

He’s almost close enough to touch.

I can see Him, sat there. Still and silent.

He’s good at silence. The things He has said with silence. The depth of emotion and understanding that has often passed between us without uttering a word.

Sometimes, if I’m honest, it’s not been very convenient. When I really want to hear a clear answer, when He really needs to be heard, He just stays quiet.

But He always comes back, always emerges from the gloom when I don’t hear or see Him. And when He does, the truth in what He says is never plainer.

But.

But no.

This time it’s different. This time the silence speaks of something ominous and empty.

I could reach out and touch him, but tomorrow I won’t be able to. Where now I could reach out and feel the Spirit pulsing within Him, tomorrow I will feel nothing.

Space. A gap. A vacuum where once I touched the graceful truth of love.

I will feed only on memories. But what memories?

His right hand, which I have let caress me… Embrace me… Know me… Will be ripped and shackled away from me. Even if He wanted to, He’ll never be able to speak of love through touch again.

His left hand has, so many times, pulled me up when I have fallen. With an unspoken compassion it has so delicately tended to my scars. The hand of healing will be scarred itself, the hand that cleansed my wounds will splatter the earth with its own blood.

His feet, the feet that planted the footsteps I have so carefully observed. I have tried my best to follow in His path, because it seems to be the best way of understanding who He is and what He wants. Tomorrow those feet will be stapled together, hoisted above the dust in which once they trod.

His body. That temple. That perfect construct – an object demanding attention, reverence, adoration, worship. It never needed to be shown off to demand my love. It never needed gaudy decoration to demand my love. Whenever I stopped and looked beneath the clothing I realised it was something more than a feast for the eyes that had demanded my attention. And tomorrow this temple, the place of worship I have dedicated my life to attending… Will be placed in the hands of those who cannot see or know its beauty.

Where once with care and dignity I removed His garments, they will be ripped and torn from Him. The body that I have revelled in, with which I have shared my own body in perfect mutuality, will be humiliated beyond words. With less than no regard it will be put on full and unadulterated view for mockery.

And finally His breath will go. The strain will take its final toll and He will die. Leave me defenceless, broken and alone among my enemies.

Why?

Why?

Why?

I gaze in dumb, wide-eyed terror at Him as I taste a mere fraction of the answer. An answer I can never understand.

My anger, terror, revulsion transform as I focus on the only thing I know. The truth He has spoken a thousand thousand times to me, in a thousand thousand different ways.

He has always spoken in the silence. He has told me of a ‘love’ that no word can even hint at.

I want to run to Him, scream and engulf Him totally until my memories of love burn into Him. A final attempt at stopping the inevitable. But I know it would be fruitless.

In the silence I know that He already knows. It is the same silence as it always was. The resignation to love expressed in a way even He, perhaps, doesn’t fully understand.

My lover dies tomorrow. And sense tells me that we will never again tumble together in the grace of eternity. But our love has never been grounded, confined or defined.

As I sink my eyes into Him… Even the separation of our beings could not stop our love. Time moves nearer to the necessity of a new expression of love. Until then, I will maintain solidarity in silence.

Who recieves communion?

I was recently asked on Twitter whether I thought people need to be baptised before they receive communion. I was going into a meeting at the time, and an hour later I had more than 25 notifications from the small but interesting exchange that had followed.

It’s been buzzing around my head a lot recently, so I thought I’d throw together my tuppence-worth here.

Generally I would encourage people to wait for confirmation before receiving communion – or, otherwise, to make a special event of a first communion. I know that’s quite an unusual view across all traditions now, and I understand many of the reasons against it. I understand that it can alienate children, or adults who are exploring faith, that it incorrectly projects the image that some people are ‘ready’ for it (when in reality none of us are), and I’m acutely aware that merging confirmation and first communion can deaden the effect of both. So why would I encourage waiting? Mainly as a way to illustrate the mystery, the importance, the dignity and the privilege of communion. All liturgy is fragile – stretch it too far in any direction and the heart can be so easily lost. We can easily become hung up on liturgy, lectionaries and tradition – but, at the other end of the scale, we can also undersell God, chucking the baby out with the bathwater, if we play too much with a common piece of liturgy.

I don’t hold onto this ‘rule’ of waiting before confirmation too hard. It’s not an essential, it’s just something I’d personally encourage. Maybe if I spent a lot of time in a Church where young children receiving communion was a regular occurrence I might change. But if someone takes the bread but not the wine – because they’re very young and don’t like the idea of drinking wine – that seems a little worrying to me. It’s not that they’re not mature enough per se (as I have said, none of us are ready) – but ten years down the line I wonder how special communion will seem to them? More and more Anglicans perceive the Eucharistic Prayer, and the act of receiving the elements, as little more than a symbol of unity in Christ and each other. Real Presence, or even just the acknowledgement that something is actually going on at the altar, seems to be going out of fashion. I say again – liturgy is fragile, and mass is the most fragile of all. It must be preserved with dignity and reverence, or it could too easily become just another piece of worship. Take that too far and we lose the privilege of guarding the most sacred and powerful act we have – saying mass. We therefore surround it with acts and symbols, from vestments and incense to the altar linens and the washing of hands (depending on your tradition), in order to keep it alive. The act of waiting until I was 14 for confirmation/communion has stuck with me, and was important in forming my understanding of how important the Eucharist is. I recently spoke to someone who had just been confirmed. They had been receiving communion since they were a young child, but the parish priest suggested they abstain from the elements in the six month leadup to confirmation. They were rejoicing in that advice, saying it had made a deep impact on them.

To return to the original question, receiving communion before baptism, there I have even less room for manoeuvre. Part of baptism is entry into the family of the Church. If you haven’t yet made that commitment, or had it made on your behalf, it must surely damage the ability of a communicant to be part of the ‘one body’? Rather than being linked to each other communally each communicant would just happen to be eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ at the same time, in a hypothetical situation where none of the communicants have been baptised. It loses the deep significance of the baptised members of one body joining together to receive the Sacraments.

But, having said all this, I openly acknowledge that these are ‘human’ rules, and God’s ways are not our ways. Were someone to ask if they should receive communion before confirmation I would suggest they wait, explain why and encourage them to decide what’s right for them. Were someone to ask if they should receive communion before baptism I would strongly encourage them not to, explain why, and urge them to wait. But even then, it’s their choice. Were I a priest it would have to be an extremely exceptional situation before I refused someone a Sacrament. If someone is there, hands outstretch, ready to know God in any Sacrament I would never, ever, assume to tell them otherwise. Most Canon Laws, and other ecclesiastical rules, are merely human ways of keeping order. Without rules there would be chaos, but once we start claiming that they are God’s unchangeable rules we’ve usually overstepped the mark.

For a range of reasons I am staunchly against lay presidency at the Eucharist. I would never contemplate saying mass as a layperson – it would seem an impossibility, let alone grossly controversial. And I’d be very concerned about a priest presiding without wearing some form of robes. And yet, if the world were ending and I was trapped in a room with only bread, wine, Common Worship (or something similar), and a couple of willing communicants then yes – I would say mass. Ordained or not, robes or not. And yes I think Christ would probably be as present in that room as He is in any Eucharistic celebration.

I believe there are very few rules that God sets down for all eternity. Instead He guides us in the creation and management of our own human rules, suitable to our own situation and circumstances. These encourage order, and are all designed as a way of ultimately turning us towards Him. So do I think God will be furious with anyone receiving communion before baptism? No. Do I think He would prefer people to be baptised before they receive communion? Yes. But will there be occasions when He has lead someone to meet Him in communion before they are baptised? Yes.

Make of all that what you will. I’d be fascinated to hear any views or comments.

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