(Photo of sacramental bread used for the Eucharist courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
"I do not go to Mass to make myself "better." I go because, in the dimmest reaches of my scattered, angst-ridden mind, there is something that wants me to get down on my knees and, in spite of my own suffering and all the suffering around me, give thanks. I go because I am beginning to believe that heaven is not in some other world, but shot through the broken world in which we live."
I borrowed this one off my blog friend Fran's status recently. I had to agree with everything Heather King said, but I have to add one thing to it..."...and the embodiment of heaven shot through a broken world resides in the Eucharistic sacraments--the bread and wine--the Body and Blood of Christ."
If there are two things I go back to again and again in my spiritual core, it's the duty I have to my own Baptismal Covenant, and the repeated promise of renewal in the Sacraments. I think I can turn just about anything into a discussion about the Sacraments. In fact, just recently I somehow managed, in a conversation with my vicar about the church Google Calendar, meander my way into talking about the Sacraments. (The conversation was about putting the dates for "House Eucharist" this summer on the calendar. We got to talking about how the Eucharist is both "same" and "different" in different settings.)
When I'm sitting in the middle of my own brokenness and heartache, what I need most is the Sacraments--not because they magically "do something to fix it," but because somehow, they transform me from a "receiver" to a "giver." Just as the wine is poured into the chalice, I see the need to pour myself out into the receptacle of God's kingdom. Just as the bread is shattered at the fraction, I see my own fractures. Then these poured out and broken items are placed inside of my digestive tract, literally the center of my body--to be made whole again--and not just whole separate things, but whole mixed things with a synergy all their own--the whole equaling more than the sum of the parts.
Then in the traditional Post-Eucharistic Prayer, we ask God to "send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you, with gladness and singleness of heart."
Singleness of heart.
Not multiple rugged individuals. One heart. The heart of Christ.
That's not to say I don't enjoy hearing the Word, that's not to say I don't appreciate good preaching, that's not to say I don't feel good about putting that check in the collection plate. These are all good things. They all have a certain degree of transformative power in their own right. But nothing puts them all together quite like the Eucharist.
I used to think that being in love with the Eucharist meant I had to be a "picky eater." Some of the most contentious discussions I've ever sat through in church had to do with which Eucharistic prayer we were using, or whether everyone ought to be kneeling after the Sanctus, or standing after the Sanctus, or if it was ok we had some do both. (I remember one voice in that discussion, "Well, if I had my way, everyone would be standing," which was countered by, "Well, if I had my way, everyone would be kneeling.")
I used to think I had to choose a side on these discussions. I'll be honest, I like kneeling better. But I am also a prayer book geek, and I know the instruction in the Book of Common Prayer says that the people are to either "stand or kneel," and when the Prayer book puts something first, the preference is the first one. So my liking to kneel is the "least preferred option" in the mind of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music at the time the 1979 Prayer Book was crafted.
But that's the point. Anglicanism has rubrics, but we allow for choice in several parts of the liturgy. The fact is, "We don't all get to have our way." That's what irks me about the "breakaway" Anglicans--the people who left because they didn't get to have their way about gay people and women with collars and/or pointy hats. Many of them even go back to the words of the 1928 Prayer Book to feel like they are getting their way--like the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music, back then, had some kind of special gnosis that made that edition of the Prayer Book akin to the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain.
I think about a time a few people expressed their dislike for the short time we used Eucharistic Prayer D. I'm not sure why, but my best guess was, "It was long." Even Episcopal seminaries teach the "ABCD's" of the four Eucharistic Prayers-- I always heard EP-A was "Adoration," EP-B was either "Blessed Virgin Mary" (because she's more prominently featured in this one,) or "Benediction" (because of its emphasis on gratitude), EP-C was "Confessional," and EP-D meant "Don't."
But in reality, EP-D is the closest one we have to the earliest forms of the Eucharist--much of it comes from the Sarum Rite, and is probably the closest one to Eastern Orthodoxy. If we want to play the "let's get back to what the church originally thought," we are talking EP-D. Yet it is the least liked of the four, if we start talking "likes and dislikes," and "what I want."
I don't worship to get what I want. I worship to become who I need to be in the totality of God's reign on earth. If I am getting hung up on standing or kneeling, which Eucharistic Prayer we are using, the quality of the preaching, or some of the ickier messages in the Lectionary, I am missing the point. When I feel like I want "my way" on this, I am too focused on the wrong things.
I remember being a little irked that I have been "put back in the corner" as acolyte. During our interim, as acolyte I was allowed "behind the table" with the presider, looking out at the pews, instead of where I used to be, before our interim, looking from the side at the table toward the priest. It wasn't because I wanted to fantasize about presiding. It was because from that vantage point, I suddenly got a new view of the Eucharist I had never had...that it wasn't something the priest did, it's something that the gathered body of people did. But when our new priest came, we went back to our old spot for the acolyte.
I admit, I don't like it as much, being in the "old spot." But I got the opportunity to see it from the "new vantage point," and that memory has not left me, and I have come to realize individual priests have individual preferences, and that's all it is. Every priest has his or her personal piety that must be attended to in order to be authentic to his or her sense of who they are as an ordained person--it shouldn't be compromised. As the presider, that is his or her right, just as how, when I'm the driver of the car, I get to put the heat or the A/C how I want it--because I hold the life of the passengers in my hands. The presider holds the spiritual life of the gathered body in his or her upraised hands as the Holy Spirit's conduit at the Eucharist, and what he/she wants (if they are healthy) is not a whim or a power thing--it's just a preference as to how they see the Eucharist. I came to understand that's okay, as long as none of the rubrics of the Prayer Book are being violated. It's just "who they are" as a priest and the experience of how they were trained.
Sure, "My favorite Eucharist" is a certain way, with certain types of music and certain types of prayer, and with things arranged in a certain fashion. But as long as I'm getting consecrated bread and wine, I'm getting what I need, and I've come to realize that what I need to be doing as part of fulfilling my Baptismal Covenant is not entering in these nit-picky discussions with other parishioners. I am happy to state my opinion and show up anyway, whether I get "my way" or not. I've decided part of fulfilling my Baptismal Covenant is to listen to what bothers others, and be compassionate, but not necessarily to take sides. To know the rubrics and make it clear that "if it's in the rubrics, I'm good with it, because I get what I need in the Sacraments."
In short, I found out "why I worship," by letting go of "what I want in worship," and accepting I always get what I need.