On my personal blog all this week, I have been doing a little mini-series on Holy Week. Today is Maundy Thursday which is the time in the Christian Church calendar where we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper; it also initiates the three Holy Days of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.
I was raised as a Southern Baptist in Dallas, Texas. Liturgy, Church calendars, Holy Days, and Prayer books were as foreign to me as R-rated films, alcohol, and dancing. Now, though, as I’m looking for a Church to go to for a Good Friday service, even the Presbyterian church service all my friends are going to doesn’t feel liturgical and structured enough for me. What happened? In the last year between going to seminary (and dropping out) and changing churches, I have fallen in love with both liturgy and Sacrament.
As modernism has fallen from our purview (and postmodernism threatens to go soon), we have begun to embrace once again the fact that we are far more than “thinking” creatures. I talked about this on this blog a couple of weeks ago, saying that perhaps many of us twenty-somethings have moved to more liturgical traditions in order to tap into our personhood at a deeper level then mere intellect. Cognition is but one faculty that guides us — an important one, to be sure — but not the deepest. It’s not “who we are”. It seems there are a growing number of philosophers that are embracing Paul’s Ricoeur’s idea of the “self as narrative”, summarized by Lars Svendsen: “to be a self is to give an account of a self through a narrative of who one has been, who one will become and who one is now. To tell this narrative of oneself is to become oneself.”
We are narrative. We are story. And the world around us is our stage as we present who we are and in that we become ever increasingly who we will be.
And this is what was happening at the Lord’s Supper and every time Christians have approached the Communion table ever since. The elements have become part of our story, and our Lord is present with us as we take them up and get caught up in The Story. Just as Yorick’s presence is very much with us as Hamlet holds up his skull, so is Jesus very truly communicated to us in the bread and the wine. We really do consume him and are nourished by him every week. And it began tonight.
But it gets even bigger. In this act, Jesus confirmed most vividly what we should have known: that this world around us is not only good, but it had been designed and intentioned to contain and communicate the Divine. As we re-enact the scenes of our story with the props of our story — in our lives and every week in our liturgy — we usher in the final act. We allow the future Redemption to invade the present. We taste the final salvation of both the world and ourselves in every crumb and drop. Beauty floods the world, continuing to reknit and make right all that is wrong in ourselves when we are nourished by the elements.
I pray that this week you are able to fully participate in the Story above all stories, and the events that secured their coming.
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