The Altar Rail

    The altar rail is a microcosm
    of a universe
    held together by sacrament.

    Imposed ashes speak
    louder than the words.

    The priest says
    “Remember thou art dust."
    But in their eyes, and his, it sounds more like
    “This year, or perhaps next,
    I will commend your ashes, not these."

    “The body of Christ”
    is heard in ten thousand ways,
    most of them unspoken.

    The altar rails is
    the cosmos in micro.

    It would be conjecture to say how often or in what manner the Mother of God received the blessed sacrament. It is not hard to imagine that there must have been a flood of conflicting emotions that she would have experienced: grief at the loss she had suffered and that she could no longer hold her Son’s hand or kiss his face; joy that he was not lost to her; perhaps pride that in fact what he had already given her would now be available to the whole world through the transformation of something as simple as bread and wine.

    What a curious and powerful experience it must have been for her, as the priest placed the body of Christ in her mouth, for her to realize that what she received was the very flesh that she had washed and cared for, the very flesh that had come from her body in the first place. When she received the body of Christ, what she received was her body as well, healed and glorified by the Incarnation. Surely, that had to be at least as awe-inspiring and shocking for her as the experience all those years earlier when the angel had announced God’s intention to her, and she had responded, “Be it done unto me according to thy will.”

    If we are ever tempted to take the Holy Eucharist for granted, meditating on Mary’s relationship with the sacrament would be a fitting remedy. Her flesh is our flesh, after all. She is one of us, made in the image and likeness of God, as we are. When Christ took residence in her womb, he sanctified not just her flesh but all flesh. When we receive his body and blood in the blessed sacrament, we receive the fullness of him, but we also receive the fullest and truest of ourselves.

    From Fr. Jonathan Mitchican in What Mary Received in the Eucharist

    My wife returned this weekend from a two week pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. My latest piece at Covenant is about my experience trying to walk the pilgrim way while caring for our kids here at home.

    It was my own Camino de Solo Dad.

    On the Lower Slopes of Worship

    We are all beginners in the liturgy, really. All of us—from the first-time visitor who finds himself pain helplessly through the Prayer Book wondering what is happening, to the aged priest who has known it all by heart for half a century—are only on the lower slopes of worship. If the great seraphim themselves cover their faces in the presence of the Divine Majesty, who of us will claim to be experts at the act of approaching the Throne with offerings of adoration and praise.

    From The Liturgy Explained. (The old edition)

    'Man is what he eats.’ With this statement the German materialist philosopher Feuerbach thought he had put an end to all ‘idealistic’ speculations about human nature. In fact, however, he was expressing, without knowing it, the most religious idea of man.

    For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann. The opening sentences of a book I will never tire of rereading.

    Working title for a writing project I am chipping away at these days:

    Presence in a Virtual Age: a sacramental theology you didn’t know you needed

    The Pagans said 'Look'

    They said ‘Vide, look! How the love one another.’ They did not say, ‘Aude, listen to the Christians’ message’; they did not say ‘Lege, read what they write. Hearing and reading were important … But we must not miss the reality: the pagans said look!

    Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church

    The Roman Empire was “(almost) infinitely tolerant” of a variety of religions. Christianity, on the other hand, is rooted in a historical and exclusive truth claim about Jesus of Nazareth. Faced with these two realities, Kreider asks “Why in such a world did Christianity attract converts?”

    His answer is that, in part, it was the embodied patience of the Christians that made the faith attractive. Christian behavior—how they buried their dead, care for one another, the poor, and orphans—was “deeply unsettling” and yet eventually attractive to their pagan neighbors.