Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I confess that in times of boredom, I leaf through the Book of Common Prayer. Now, keep in mind I am not often bored. But the fact of the matter is, sometimes living alone is boring...and that's okay. Being bored is, in my mind, an invitation to play with my spiritual imagination. I tend to engage in a "mindless act" that evolves into a mindful act. Leafing through the BCP is one of those ways "mindless" becomes "mindful" and "prayerful."

But for some time now, I've been fascinated by pages 400 to 405, "An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist." At first, I wondered why it is even in there when we have two perfectly good rites, Rite I and Rite II. I learned a little bit from some people that this section (and its corresponding section in pages 109-114 for Evening Prayer) were part of theological discussions about what some people call "Rite III"--to allow some latitude in creativity in worship but have a framework within the Canons and traditions of our Prayer Book.

But what I came to realize as I looked at this section is, what I am looking at is a snapshot of the literal "body habitus" of the Eucharist. I am seeing its head, its heart, its arms and legs.

What's interesting is in the very first title says it is "the PEOPLE and priest" that make up this snapshot. One of the "rules" I have learned is that when multiple things are placed in order in the BCP, they truly HAVE been "rank ordered." For instance, if it says "the people stand or kneel," standing is the preferred posture although kneeling is just fine. It really jumped out at me that, although we lay folks tend to center our thoughts about the Eucharist on "the priest," the priest is actually the lesser player in the Eucharist. In short the people make up the corpus of the Eucharist.

But as we examine the parts of this body frame, we see many body parts to the Eucharist. We gather in the Lord's name. We proclaim and respond to the word of God. We pray for the world and the church. We exchange the peace. We prepare the table, make Eucharist, and break bread. The Body and Blood of Christ is shared, we give thanks, and we depart in peace.

It is so absolutely simply elegant the way this is laid out. These five pages are literally an anatomic atlas of the Eucharist.

What's even more fascinating to me that, although it states in the rubrics that this form is not to replace regular Sunday Eucharistic worship through the authorized "standard" Eucharistic Prayers in the BCP and supplemental authorized sources like the Book of Occasional Services or Enriching Our Worship, it is an invitation to explore.

It's an invitation to explore our body of corporate Eucharistic worship in the same way we explore the human body. It's the same thing as exploring the body of a lover in seeing what pleases them and also pleases you. It's the same thing as marveling at the tiny fingernails and fingers and hands of a sleeping newborn. It's the same thing as looking in the mirror at your own face as it changes over the years and on one hand, being wistful that it is no longer the face of youth, but being in awe that it is becoming a face of wisdom. It's the same thing as taking a snapshot of a moment in your life that for a tiny space of time, was pure magic to everyone in the room, a moment you all knew could not last forever, but when you show the picture around, everyone in the picture can recapture the magic in their own heart.

These five pages might be the most amazing piece of buried treasure in our Prayer Book--but yet we might not be using them to our full advantage because of the eight little words that strike fear in the heart of the typical parish--"But we've never done it that way before."

Yet here we are, with a 31 year old treasure map, and an "X" that says "dig here." What an amazing gift!

2 comments:

I LOVE this post. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the curiosity that comes out of boredom can lead to great adventures. Like this.

Get bored more often, would ya, Doc?

Once again: I do that too!

I also think about the focus on the ordained vs. the laity and I think I'm coming to the conclusion that laity have the bigger part in Christian ministry - though it's not really dissuading me from pursuing ordination. Priests may be standing where action is occurring, but the big action happens with the people.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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