Our island home

Sunday, 22 February in the season of Lent.

In the Episcopal prayers and liturgy spoken during the Eucharist can be found this delightful paragraph:

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

This fragile earth. Our island home. These two phrases speak powerfully to me. What a fragile thing is our faith. Held together by hope, tradition, longing, practice, imagination, dreams, legends, and myth. We have no assurances that our faith is connected to any physical reality beyond our species, nor do we have any way of imagining how tenuous any such connection might be.

Who can know the mind of The Old One?

Indeed our entire world is held together by powerful but carefully balanced forces and may at any moment be taken from us. It is a certainty, in fact, that this island home will be taken from us one day. A day will come when our species will end. And a day will come when this earth will be no more. Will anyone out there mourn our passing? I wonder.

Today around noon a man in San Antonio approached the communion rail of his church. He was once a minister himself and served communion for his own congregation, but that was a few years ago. He is quiet and thoughtful and solemn and a little lonely these days. He knelt at the railing, held out his hands, and waited.

The priest is a dear friend of his who sometimes whispers, “Hello, brother,” when they hug. This morning his friend gave him one of the four pieces of the larger Priest’s Wafer that is broken in view of the congregation during the blessing of the elements. The man knows that when his friend gives him one of these during communion he is saying, “God is not done with you yet.” The man wonders if his friend’s faith in him is misplaced. This little ritual they share is his last connection to his former life. Sometimes he imagines his friend fanning a small ember, breathing on it, willing it not to die.

The man knows he does not deserve such faith. He does not know why his friend still believes in his calling. But it is because he does not deserve his friend’s faith that the moment is so powerful. Can you understand why he dares not discount such a pure and innocent act on his behalf?

The wafer is fragile. It exists for a moment in our mouths and then is gone. The wine also exists but for a instant. There is a burst of flavor on the tongue and then it fades away.

As the man moves back to his seat, a thought occurs to him. “This is the body and blood of Christ. Today I am its island home.”

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  • Eoin

    This touches me deeply in a tender way. It also helps me see the Eucharist in way I have not before. Thank you for that on this first Sunday of Lent.

  • Steve

    There are times when each of us is the whisper of the Father to another. Listen well to your friend in the vestments.

  • Rachel Barenblat

    Oh, Gordon, this post is beautiful. Really beautiful. Thank you — well, first of all, for making the eucharist something I can understand and can almost imagine experiencing; and secondly thank you for your willingness to so bravely articulate your spiritual journey.

  • Ashevillian

    Taste and see.

  • Matt

    Thank you for your vulnerability, Gordon. It is still poweful and meaningful to me.

  • http://www.kneal2poetry.org/ Kristina Neal- Mosley

    wonderful

  • Bob G

    I’m always thankful when you turn your attention to the squid! The little fella on the left hand of the banner perks up like a playful puppy. Really though, these are a gift.