There is something that becomes apparent when your life is spent giving thanks… That is what the word ‘Eucharist’ is about… it literally means ‘good grace’ but in essence it means thanksgiving.
1. Thanks truly is due, all the time; to God and to our fellow human beings.
2. It is really hard to come to terms with recieving Gifts.
In this ministry, one meets a lot of people in need. In fact it’s very rare to encounter someone who is not, in some way, in need… from simple material sustenance, to deep spiritual healing. We meet them all, and we also as ministers are constantly in need…
Often the more hardpressed someone is, the greater their poverty or pain -the harder it is for them to recieve what they need… It may feel too painful to acknowledge the need, to humiliating to ask for help, or too shameful to admit the lack; there are a hundred and one reasons why it is really hard for humans in need to receive gifts.
Trying to broach the subject of need… and perhaps even to offer help – is fraught with peril and danger of hurt – mostly one has to pray that eventually, in a roundabout way, the pastoral need will gently be revealed, and that in revealing it, healing will actually begin -and perhaps further down the line help may even be requested -but by no means necessarily from me… Revealing the need to God is generally as far as I can go with people, I am a priest, not a professional counsellor -but it is an important step, because it is truthful and liberating.
Thinking about one such encounter, I recognised that, because a particular need was so very great and fundamental, it was even more well protected than usual. And that made my mind turn to humanity’s relationship with God. What I thought went like this:
God is so glorious… so holy and beautiful and perfect… if I were in need and he came to me in such a way that I could comprehend his glory…and then offered me kindness and help, I would be utterly overwhelmed, so aware of the disparity between my helpless and humble need, and his capacity to powerfully assist -I would be horrified… embarrassed, outraged and almost unmade… Even just imagining it I could feel the anger of unworthiness rise in my cheeks. And yet the world is full of God’s glory and we move through it almost unseeing…
And then I thought -but of course we are in need…
And we are not able to comprehend even a fraction of his glory.
And then I began to undertstand what kind of gift life is.
It is a vast gift, given tiny piece by piece. A glorious and shining gift, given crumb by pale crumb. It is intense love, dilute with palatable tedium, discomfort and sorrow. It is heavenly glory, given brick by dusty brick, and dropping into our lives in shining puddles and broken timber… How can God give all the fire of his love to a little child of clay, without utterly destroying it with shining intensity?
How incredibly gentle. How incredibly kind and patient. How genuinely heartbreakingly loving. This life is how we are born, born into God’s presence -there is no other way for us to know one another… God and us…to come into relationship with one another… except by this painfully slow process of living, living in this land of veiled glory. Only by gradually growing accustomed to God’s veiled glory, and becoming more and more aware of our true need, can we first know ourselves as children of clay and then… despite the difference… begin to know ourselves also as beloved children of God.
But at first we couldn’t… even with all of Life to work through and to recognise our nature and our need, we could not believe the gift and we could not relate to God… he was still too big, and beyond our comprehension.
And then, like a parent cutting up the food smaller and smaller for the children to be able to digest… he came to us small -as a child of clay and a child of God. And he showed us how beloved we were. But our need and our pain was too great… and his glory was still too vast -he healed, he loved, he fed us, he protected us, he put up with us and called us to help him… showing us that he valued us in every way… But for us the pain and humility was still too strong and anger was our response. He was not small enough.
And he recognised this… so he showed us, that he would willingly be broken up smaller, crumb by crumb, and poured out drop by drop. And that he would give himself completely to our need.
And in our hunger and anger we leapt at this, and cut him up, and tried to let out all the glory from the heart of him, so that he would not make us feel so humble, so aware of our clay.
And then we took him down and put him out of sight. And wept with guilt and sorrow.
But he did not cease to be who he was.
And he did not cease to love us. And his crumbs have never ceased to feed us, across the world and across history.
Now he comes to us all crumb by crumb, and drop by drop and line by line, diluted by the distance of time and cooled by the hardness of our hearts… and he still burns.
I love him, I need him, and one day my eyes shall see him, and not another’s.