An exploration of how we use moments of silence found within the Eucharist Service.
The opening prayers
The time for confession
Hearing the Bible read
The Great Thanksgiving Prayer.
We are so used to this service, it seems to be the same each week and indeed we can seem totally thrown if something “not normal” takes place or happens during it.
Yet even if it is from one perspective, “the same”, from another it has always to be new.
The Eucharist first leads us in, then it accompanies us through, and gently sends us out again.
How are we prepared to be led in?
The collect for purity,
The ancient priestly prayer of vesting and beginning, brought into English by Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century, now includes us all.
I invite you to see this prayer as a doorway, opening and inviting, through which we enter with all that we are. We carry a lot of baggage with us in the journey of our life, this baggage comes with us more often than not.
The silence we keep at this time could be the moments we check our baggage, see it all. And own it.
The time for confession.
We are invited to call to mind our sin. As we have chosen to enter this gateway of life, it is right that we remember the things about us that hinder our progress, the stuff of our lives that trip us up, blind our sight from God and one another. Some of this is deeply ingrained and almost hidden. Sometimes we all too easily recognise our blind spots, and could be ashamed by them.
It may be that we have easily recognised something recently which is a burden and needs to be brought before God for healing.
The silence we keep is private and confidential. It is the space we have to gently unpack and offer ourselves to the loving light of God… as we remind ourselves God is both power and love, and it is this loving that encourages us and enable us to unpack ourselves.
Yet we are all together as we do this. All confessing sinners. We do this as a body, knowing that before God, and in sin, we are equal.
It is often said that Christians wait upon God’s Word. Of course this comes to us in many ways and not just through what we call “scripture”.
Yet we must acknowledge that Scripture is what can inspire us. It is what informs us about God and about Jesus our Lord.
It is therefore only right that we give ourselves the opportunity to be open and this takes time.
The times we hear the bible read in church are special.
The silence is the time we concentrate on what has been read, we mull it over and seek Gods word amongst it. Sometimes it is helpful to picture ourselves in the story we have heard.
The thanksgiving prayer
“Just as it was hard to see the divine image in Jesus, it is hard to see it in ordinary folks like us. For those of us from a sacramental tradition the essential mystery is constantly repeated in the Eucharist. For Catholic Christianity, Eucharist is the touchstone of orthodoxy. If we understand the Eucharist, we get it! It's the same mystery as Jesus. It looks like bread, it looks like wine, but we say it's more. I always say that it is easier for God to "convince bread" what it is than to convince us! Wine knows it is the blood of Christ, and we don't.
Can you see? Can you see through bread? Can you see through wine and see that it is more? That brings the spiritual life down to earth — literally. It says God is hiding in physical reality, in politics, in feelings, in childbirth and death, in everything of this earth. Isn't that wonderful? Without his hidden presence, we are in utter exile here.”
Richard Rohr “Everything belongs”. Chapter: Cleansing the lens published by Crossroad publishing 1999 isbn 0-8245-1995-7
This is the greatest prayer we pray together, even if often a priest speaks most of it on everyone’s behalf.
The prayer is a complex expression of our whole living faith, what it means to us, what it does to us, how it translates itself into our lives. For this we must be alert and attuned, it is very much a corporate prayer, and one during which important actions are done.
Bread and wine are placed on the table, Bread and wine are offered as we are offered. Bread and wine is blessed as we are blessed. We eat and drink together, and are nourished with the bread and wine which is for us as feasting in Christ.
As the words of the hymn say,
“Christ's is the world in which we move.
Christ's are the folk we're summoned to love, Christ's is the voice which calls us to care, and Christ is the One who meets us here, …..Christ makes with his friends a touching place.
All this is able to happen only when we wait in silence. It is not something that happens in an instant. The still small voice has to be listened to. As the advert for a cup of tea currently says “It gets you back to you”.
The Eucharist puts us within the presence of God and here we are re-created re-imaged and brought back to ourselves.
The silence we experience, is the silence of contentment and peace. Of having been blessed and in a place which is deep in love and security. At a place where we feel that Christ has called us his friends and touched us. Again a silence of listening for God and gently hearing his call to us to go out into the world again ready to serve renewed in His service.