I attended an Episcopal service yesterday. It was the first for me since attending Saint James the Fishernam in Kodiak, AK. Grace Episcopal here in Huron, South Dakota is a lovely building. Brick walls, dark wood, low lighting, a bit of stained glass, and high vaulted ceilings all combine to make the sanctuary feel like a sacred space for worship.
Episcopal services are generally centered around the Eucharist, or communion, the partaking of the bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Like the congregation in Kodiak, Grace Episcopal does not have a Priest, and a Priest is required for communion. Yesterday morning, then, we observed the Morning Prayer rather than the Eucharist service.
Recently, I’ve been wondering about the place of the Eucharist, about its meaning, both for a Christian believer and then also its greater significance to nonbelievers. The Quakers, for example, rejected all sacraments, because they viewed all of life as sacred. One event could not be more sacred than the next, and if this is true then why bother with the formality? This is Protestant theology taken to the extreme! It is also an extreme Modern and libertarian approach, and as such I’m inclined to like it. I agree with the Quakers, but then again,I also enjoy participating in the Episcopal Eucharist and partaking of the bread and wine.
The solution that has presented itself to me is to participate in the Euccharist event as a sacred sacrament, but to use the event as a reminder that all of life is sacred and that if we truly “had eyes to see and ears to hear,” then we would find that each moment of our lives is imbued with holy truth. As the Buddhist saying goes…..well, I can’t remember exactly the wording of the Buddhist saying, but it goes something like this: A teacher is like a finger pointing to the moon. If you only look at the finger, you’ll never see the moon. The Eucharist, then, while significant as an event in itself, should point to something else, a deeper appreciation of the sacrament of life itself and the depth that each moment presents.
This also seems consistent with my experience of spiritual practice and spiritual disciplines. Take prayer as an example. A Christian might set aside time for “prayer,” which is a sacred time where one is consciously attentive on the act of praying. Yet the Apostle Paul said to “pray without ceasing,” which presumably means that we can be so “at prayer” within the course of daily life that we are not even consciously aware of the fact that we are at prayer.
This same concept seems to apply to my times of meditation. During meditation, I specifically take time to consciously and deliberately be silent, still, and centered. The idea is that this stillness and silence will spill over into the rest of life itself, so that eventually I begin to live life in a centered manner, even if I am not aware that it is happening.
With Eucharist and spiritual practices, the idea is to seek to intentionally and deliberately create a special sacred space. The goal, though, for me, is not to privilege these times, to place them on a pedestal, or to make them “more holy” than any other time; rather, setting aside these times simply reminds me that all of life is sacred and should be lived out as though each moment were sacred and holy.