Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sunday Meditation: Sense of Presence.

Leading up to and after the Communion, I still find my mind drawn to becoming aware of, or of cultivating, a particular type of experience - this usually in the form of some definite sense of the presence of Christ with His people and the awe that it seems this should inspire.

I appreciate the criticisms I have read of this form of piety.  First of which is that it tends to obscure the communio of the saints, hidden saints who are apparent sinners.  Too much concentration upon one's own feelings and perceptions serves to make one less aware that one person communes as a member of a body.  The manifestly social and ecclesial dimension of the Communion should be allowed to have its force.  This is to say that one may inadvertently force the Sacrament into a more individualistic mold, meant only for the satisfaction of personal feelings of piety, and not for the awareness that Christ's Sacramental Body is a Gift not only to me and for my inclinations, but for the entire Mystical Body - the gaggle of folk that are the church militant.  Ultimately, the Holy Communion is both its appearance - that is, bread and wine distributed in a (hopefully) reverent fashion to the motley crew of disciples who come to the table, with all their attendant frailties and foibles, and its underlying reality, Body and Blood, which is only known by faith.  Also, it is truly the appearance of wine and bread, and not the appearance of the True Body and Blood.  Cultivating a sense that it is not in fact what it appears to be is in some manner to attempt to undo what the Lord has graciously done: veil His presence with the species of bread and wine.

And it is indeed a gracious thing that His presence is veiled in this manner.  It safeguards the people from their own absolute contingency and nothingness before the mysterium tremendum.  God is simply too much for us in His naked presence, in this time, and in our manner of being.

Additionally, the sort of practice that regularly seeks an experience other than what the Lord offers, phenomenally, so to speak, may discourage the experience He intends for us - provided the ministers faithfully perform their service as stewards.  It is actually a form of impiety to seek to compliment or augment the gift as it is given with one's own predilections, or at least it could be, if it serves to obscure what is in actuality given and proclaimed.

Perhaps this can be chalked up to a particularly protestant concern over mysticism of a certain variety, but I am not so sure.  I have no problem with experience of the divine per se, the divine as it is given to be experienced, only a concern with inveterately Adamic compulsions to concoct something other than what God in His wisdom knows that I, and the entire Body, need.  It seems that anthropocentric preconditions for what God can or cannot do or what need I believe He should be supplying are sure recipes for theological, ecclesiological, and liturgical disasters.

What God thinks I need is always, first and foremost, Christ Himself and all the things that He brings with Him: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

I have more to think about here.

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