aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Today's Thought

A stray thought occurred to me today as I was looking forward to Sunday's celebration of Holy Communion. When I was in seminary, some of my super-Protestant fellow students sometimes downplayed communion, at least in its usual form, as "mere ritual." Well, whether one sees "ritual" as a positive or a negative thing, communion is a rite, but I'm not sure I'd call it a ritual.

The ritual is the day-by-day, week-by-week encounter with Christ that is the Christian life. The pattern of the rite is less important, in the full view of things, than its recurrence -- than the faithfulness of Christ who is remembered, in the faithfulness of those doing the remembering. Ritual is a way of ordering one's life, not a something that lasts sixty minutes or so on Sunday morning.

Modern Christians -- especially Protestants -- have this problem of assuming that moments are transformative: the moment of baptism; or of repentance; of salvation/conversion; of in-filling. And we are always looking for the next Aha! moment: of emotion; of insight; of grace. But in between the moments we pick out as determinative for our personal story, we mostly go back and wallow in all the other moments, the events, the passions of the formless, directionless life that we call the ordinary.

The Christian view of that life is that it is primarily disordered. We thrash about in it, like someone trying to keep one's head above water in crashing waves. We fool ourselves into thinking that we are getting somewhere, when we are merely swimming about in circles. Christ saves us by re-ordering our lives; sometimes, by ordering it, period, since some people have no experience of a life ordered in any way except by the challenge of dealing with what-comes-next.

That re-ordering is the ritual: the day-by-day, week-by-week encounter with Christ. In being taken out of the world sufficiently to make our way through the world, we find ourselves with filling sails and a rudder at last. We are able to get somewhere, finally, instead of being tossed to and fro.

Some people think that being loosed from the cycle of ritual existence -- of a life lived at God's command, after the pattern revealed in Christ -- is freedom, but what it really is, is helplessness. One is at the mercy of all the other forces in life, until and unless one has one's life set in order by the Lord of life. Only those whose lives are properly ordered are free; only they can hope to arrive somewhere. The rest are "free" to exhaust themselves and, finally, drown.

The ritual is not the order of the words said at the Table. The ritual is the life in which we keep coming back to the Table and being renewed after the example of Christ. Communion is not merely a matter of a Moment; it is the whole manner of our redeemed life.

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