“…as from the heights of Thy glory Thou didst humble Thyself, so now bear me in my humility; as Thou didst deign to lie in a manger in a cave, so deign now also to come into the manger of my mute soul and corrupt body.” ” Thou didst not reject the sinful woman who ventured to draw near to Thee, so also have pity on me, a sinner, approaching to touch Thee.”
A mid-week occurrence put me in a thought-filled frame of mind. The Director of Alumni Giving, a 41 year old father of two, died of a heart attack in his sleep. His wife awakened at 4:00 a.m. to his gasping for breath. While calling 911, she performed CPR. At the hospital an hour later he was declared dead.
C was one of The Hubster’s employees who reported directly to him. Wednesday The Hubster had to do a different type of management. His pastoral counseling training and caring heart came in handy. Several of the department’s members are young and this was, for some, their first experience of the death of a peer. It really rocked them.
It is times like these that I am reminded, in a very tangible way, of the fragility of life. It is one thing when someone elderly dies. It is all together completely different when one so young dies. Which brings me to ‘preparation’ and the prayer this post opened with.
It is part of a communion prayer written by St. John Chrysostum, one that I read, along with a couple others, in preparation to receive communion. I’ve read it for quite a few years, yet Sunday those words wouldn’t leave my mind. Despite my effort to continue past them, my eyes and heart kept returning to them.
I am asking God to bear me in my humility as I prepare to receive Him! Really!?! When I approach to receive, I assume a lot; that I am prepared sufficiently and will not be struck dead like the soldier who touched the Ark of the Covenant when it was falling off the cart. Yet, God loves us so much He comes to us, in humility!
Do we receive Him with the expectation of walking away intact? Or do we receive Him with the hope of being spiritually transformed, even just a little bit? Are we aware? Do we work to become aware?
2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 Was the Epistle reading for Sunday. “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
This passage brings the above thoughts home in a poignant way. We are temples of the Living God. We are made in His Image. We receive Him into ourselves in communion!
Father explained in his homily that ‘prolonged enmeshment in the world desensitizes us. We lose our sense of the unclean.’ Church is a sacred place to go and be reoriented to the Right way, to receive Christ for purification, confession and blessing. We are strengthened to go into the world and do battle….not necessarily with the world and its inhabitants, but with our ‘self’ in order to keep ourselves on the steady and right path, “perfecting holiness” as St. Paul wrote.
Henceforth, I hope it is with this heightened sense of awareness that I traverse the aisle to the chalice.