Sunday, April 12, 2015

Happiness in a monstrance

For the third time since my ordination, I officiated at the office of Benediction today. I know that there are many Anglicans who will be somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but for me, this office is an opportunity for me to stop and take in more of the Sacred mystery of the Sacrament.

You see, it's all very well coming forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, but you have to take and eat, or take and drink, and then it's gone. Of course, once we have returned to our seats or are engaged in ablutions, one ought to be focusing on what we have just done namely, taken into ourselves the very substance of God. The liturgy is there to draw us ever closer into the Mystery, and to prepare us for leading a new life in a new week with God. However, it's all over in a moment. 

As I stand there beating my chest to "Lord, I am not worthy", the time for me to gaze at the Body of Christ broken for me and for the rest of the world is short. The congregation are waiting for Christ to feed them using my poor little hands. They need their sustenance, but they don't really have time to eat their host and have it. That might sound rather glib and positively scandalous to speak like that about truly holy things, but there is a real point here: do we have enough time to take in as much of the Reality of Christ's presence with us before we receive our Communion and go out into our busy-ness?

For me, Benediction is an opportunity to focus on realities beyond my eyes. I know what my eyes are seeing, but what are the eyes of my soul really seeing? I gaze upon something small, white and round set in the middle of the monstrance, but I know through faith that I am seeing Our Lord Himself. Of course, I can't take in a millionth of the presence of God, but I can take in something. I can comprehend the fact that, as the Church fulfills its side of the New Covenant by doing this in remembrance, Our Lord is being faithful to His side and revealing Himself to be present, though I may not know how.

And this makes me happy, and that is the point of Benediction. 

Benediction is an opportunity of us to be blessed. How many of us know what blessing really is?

"Blessed" is how we translate the Greek word makarios which is beatus in Latin. The sense of the word is that of being happy but the word happy really isn't big enough to give the full sense. The happiness which i meant here is true happiness, the thing for which all human beings ultimately long, a state of contentment and joy which lasts forever, not just for a time. At Benediction, the priest blesses the congregation with the Host. What does this mean?

It's rather beautiful in its simplicity. Humanity can only ever be truly happy when it is reconciled with its Creator. Most of the time, we crave happiness in all kinds of weird and not-so-wonderful places rather than looking for our true happiness in being ourselves by looking to the One Who truly knows who we are and loves us for it. It is He who calls us to repent of our meanderings away from false and empty happinesses which cloy and rot and fall apart. We can only ever be happy when we are perfected, and this means being perfected in God.

At Benediction, we are given a glimpse through a glass darkly of the Way of true happiness. With the eyes of faith, we see our end, completion and perfection.

We are blessed many times in our lives. At the hands of our priests and bishops we receive blessings from Christ acting through the weak and imperfect bodies of His ministers. Again, in this action we are able to see the drawing of Christ as the light of our true happiness. 

Herein lies the mission of the Church. There are many ways outside of the Church in which human beings are blessed. We are blessed with family, friends, houses and homes, children, et c. Some people are not so blessed and it is their unhappiness that we must all share in some way. It is the job of the Church to bring happiness into the lives of others by allowing them the opportunity to see that everlasting joy of God. 

This is such hard work, and we often fall short. So what do we do? We must bless God.

How can we bless God? God is already blessed simply by being himself. He is His own happiness! The fact is that we bless God by affirming that He is precisely that - our happiness, our end, our perfection, our joy. We bless God by affirming what He truly is and express our longing for that Being with us, We are going to fail at making people happy, but that is not our mission. We can only show people where happiness is by the way that we live our lives, even in the times of darkness when it is difficult to see the end. 

Little things help us glimpse that end, though - like monstrances.

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