Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Knowing Without Grasping

Silent Saturday is held the first Saturday of every month at St. Patrick's. A few of us gather and someone reads aloud one of the passages for the next morning or shares a short meditation. We then observe three sessions of silent prayer, in increasing duration, followed by walking meditation around the perimeter of the sanctuary. The two ladies who started it have faithfully held this ritual for years, and I've been joining them since summer.

This month, they were both out of town and I agreed to lead the session. The first Saturday of February dawned a glorious, unseasonably warm day. No one else showed up for Silent Saturday, but one of our Altar Guild members was at the church to set up for Sunday's service. I asked her if she'd like to join me, but she politely declined, explaining that she only had time that morning for set-up.

Not wanting to delay her from her other Saturday commitments, I encouraged her to go about her work and to not mind me. I'd just carry on as usual from one of the pews.

She was incredibly gracious, obviously careful to make as little noise as possible. Even so, it was somewhat difficult to settle in to silence with the sounds of preparation echoing occasionally in the space.

But then something happened. The Eucharistic words "Body of Christ, Bread of Heaven" began surfacing in my thoughts as I sat with my eyes closed and hands open. For someone like me who wrestles with the idea of Christ -- simultaneously drawn to The Word Made Flesh and skeptical of the assertion that Jesus Christ is the only way to God -- this was a bit unexpected. No matter how I tried to detach from the words and simply be present in silence, I kept returning to them. And somewhere in the space between her activity and my stillness, I knew and participated in the Body of Christ.

Knew, yet still couldn't grasp.

It was an experience like stretching my hand out the window of a moving car, feeling the air slip over the surface of each finger, over my palm, permeating each pore. Leaning my head so the rush of wind envelops my face and teases my hair. Breathing deep. The current around me and inside me... and yet. I can't hold on to it. I can't close my fist around it and put it in my pocket. Can't hold a single breath.

I have to exhale.

I'm obviously reaching to wrap words around the experience. I know I can only give an approximation. But I think it has something to do with balance and being present in the moment. Sometimes we are the ones in silence, whose hands are still and open. Creating space. Waiting. Sometimes we are the ones in motion, whose hands are moving and serving. Setting a table. Preparing bread. Some of us do one more than the other.

But we can all eat the bread of angels. Taste an incomprehensible mystery. Open ourselves to glimpse what we cannot grasp. The body of Christ. One Body, many parts. An inhale. An exhale.

We balance each other.

We are each other.

And maybe, sometimes, if only for a single breath, we know it.

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