Saturday, March 07, 2009

all are welcome at the table...sort of

Sitting in the lovely chapel listening to the priest read scripture about all being welcome at the table of God, I felt warm and at home. My eyes followed along with the bulletin to this place:

"Everyone is invited to come forward today. If you are in a communion of faith practice with the Catholic Church, come forward in the usual way to receive the Sacred Bread. If you are a guest, you bless this assembly with your presence. We wish to bless you in return. When you come to the minister, place your hand over your heart to indicate that you wish a blessing." (emphasis my own)

A blessing, but no elements. My heart and thoughts stopped to consider those words. The table is open to everyone and for everyone except when it's not. I was reminded of a child looking through a bakery window at warm fresh bread and delectable pastries– an urchin child hungering for sustenance who will be offered a kind pat on the head rather than a belly-filling meal.

Fortunately, I am not an urchin child. I am a child of God (just like you), well-loved who knows that Mother (or Father) God has fed me well and received me as whole. She will wipe the hunger away and I am no less special because the priest would not put the wafer on my tongue or the wine to my lips. Experiencing my inner smile, I laugh at the silliness of humans thinking they can control where or how God gets doled out. Hmmmm...

A few more thoughts about 'helping out God' can be found at Dreams and Visions.

Lastly, I realize that many of my readers come from a Catholic tradition. Please understand it is not my intent to malign any tradition, but rather to consider the impact of exclusionary rites. I hope all might ponder this alongside me. The service was quite lovely and the presence of God was palpable. I was indeed blessed - elements or not. And, this vision of standing outside the bakery did leave me feeling set aside and not so very welcome.

I wonder where in my life I leave others standing outside the bakery window. Again, I invite you to ponder this alongside me.

teddy bear table taken in Paris 3.08

16 comments:

Barbara said...

This is ONE aspect of my faith tradition that saddens me deeply. I find any form of exclusionary behaviour to be repellent. Incidentally, not all priests in my tradition are so "by the book." My priest-friends read the Bible differently. (I guess that is why they are my friends!)

lucy said...

barbara--sounds like you have great friends...not so surprising to me! thanks for commenting.

Endlessly restless said...

In a way the exclusion that you describe was at least upfront and honest. I wonder how many of us are exclusive in ways that are subtle, unstated - but clearly communicated to the 'outsider'.

I recall being excluded from taking communion at a wee Brethren meeting because I didn't have a 'letter of introduction'! I've been to many Catholic services and haven't felt excluded in this way.

Ritual and group dynamics are strange at the best of times - but it's particularly sad when practised in the name of the one who welcomes prostitutes, tax collectors, publicans and me.

Tess said...

Yes, it's very sad. Equally, we Catholics are forbidden to receive communion from a Protestant minister. There are a couple of good articles on this topic:
http://tinyurl.com/bbfpc8
http://tinyurl.com/68lsx3

Abbey of the Arts said...

I share your sadness over this, as one from inside this particular tradition with many friends from other denominations. It utterly baffles me how we can offer a meal in the name of the one who turned no one away from his table.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Lucy - no surprise, I managed to get two posts in my brain at the same time and pretty much responded to how I feel about an all inclusive welcome from the clergy that would mimic the welcome I believe God sends to all in the post having to with "Bare Essentials" - well, doesn't matter, of course, all brilliant, huh?!

xoxox

lucy said...

ER--love your thoughtful comments especially the final sentence...the table of one who invites prostitutes, publicans, tax collectors and ME!

tess--at least the exclusion goes both ways :-) thanks for the article links.

aota--when i begin to think i "know" anything, i usually know it's time to stop and check in on what i'm about to say!

SS--i thought you were just conserving space. it is indeed "all brilliant!" so glad you're back :-) xoxoxoxo

Seeker said...

I was hoping that another Catholic would step in and defend the Catholic church's stance on this. As nobody has though, I will try; though I am probably the worst person to try to do this........

First of all, I am sorry you felt excluded. Being excluded never feels good! However, you could go to any club or society and be excluded if you do not join and observe the rules. I personally would not expect to walk into the church of any other religion and expect special privileges without being expected to join and follow at least some rules. Anyone can theoretically receive Communion in the Catholic church -they just have to join the church and obey the rules first!

You might not agree with our beliefs, but we believe that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ at the consecration. They therefore become something very precious which has to be protected from abuse. In order to receive communion therefore, it is necessary to be in a state of grace - which we believe can be achieved by going to confession first.

Although the rules do not completely exclude the possibility of abuse - there are still sadly many cases of people deliberately desecrating the consecrated host - I still believe that the rules are necessary. We could never allow just anyone to walk in off the streets and receive this precious gift. So please, think of these rules as being to protect Jesus himself from abuse - rather than deliberately intending to exclude sincere people like yourself.

Yes, Jesus certainly excluded nobody when he was on earth. But he would not have welcomed anyone into his special group of followers unless they first renounced sin and followed his 'rules' by living a good life. He would not have given any special privilege to any sinner who did not first renounce his sins.

Take care.

Seeker said...

Oops..... apologies to Tess! I somehow missed reading you post with the links in!

Eveline Maedel said...

darn...blogger lost my whole comment!

How do we exclude? Let me count the ways....

I found this be a very thoughtful post and lots of thoughtful comments.

Just wanted to share, that I thought the invitation to come forward for a blessings, was in a small way some form of progress. I have visited Catholic churches before and knew I could not partake of communion and did not, out of respect, but I also was not invited to come forward for a blessing - that would have been nice, as that also can be a source of spiritual comfort, to be blessed. Not being invited to come forward at all makes you feel more excluded I think.

PS - Lucy, thanks for your kind comments on my blog!

lucy said...

seeker--thank you for taking the time to respond to this post. i am sorry you felt a need to "defend the Catholic church's stance on this," although misunderstanding the "rules of the club" was not my concern in this particular post, but rather to consider the ways we choose either intentionally or unintentionally, rightly or wrongly to exclude people.

i hope you enjoyed tess' reading recommendations as i did.

still, i continue to be puzzled by man's desire to help God out or as you have stated "protect Jesus himself from abuse". i have always considered him to be the powerful protector.

i realize while in the Catholic service i could easily have slipped through the communion line and i don't believe god would have minded one little bit. i chose instead to ask for the blessing to honor the traditions & those who believe in them even though i perhaps see things a little differently.

your viewpoint is welcome here. i hope you'll continue to come back and visit.

lucy said...

eveline--the invitation to receive a blessing was indeed a lovely gesture and did allow me an opportunity to at least get a little closer to the table :-)

Country Parson said...

We Anglicans, like many churches in the catholic tradition, affirm and teach the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine. And we also affirm and teach that this sacrament is so holy as to require special care. One ought not to receive it without recognizing the meaning and importance of it. On the other hand we also know that we do not need to protect God. God can handle that quite well on his own. Therefore, my practice, and that of most Episcopal priests, has been to announce that "All baptized Christians who would receive Communion in their own church are invited to receive Communion with us, and we hope that you do. If Communion is not a part of your tradition, you are invited to come forward for a blessing." Are there some who come forward to receive who are not "eligible"? No doubt there are, just as there are regular members of the congregation who come forward in states not very close to grace. It is not my place to judge, God does that, I, as priest, am simply there as an agent of God's abounding hospitality. I am pleased to say that brothers and sisters from the Roman Catholic Church have been frequent visitors to our altar rail, including several priests.
CP

lucy said...

cp--i think in my studies i did learn that episcopal's are qualified to visit the catholic table.

i would like to acknowledge that i have always felt quite welcome at your table and appreciate having the choice to determine whether or not i feel "eligible" or not. i still imagine god smiling at the thought of us/anyone trying to protect him...

"abounding hospitality" is a beautiful phrase and concept...kind of reminds me of "love your neighbors as yourself".

thanks for the comment.

blisschick said...

Good stuff, Lucy.

I think of this not as a case of exclusion but one of admittance. Semantics? I don't think so.

People are admitted after a certain level of learning and understanding is attained. Initiation to a Mystery, so to speak.

The idea of the Mystery School is not new to Catholicism, of course.

Greeks and Romans were especially fond of levels of initiation, and you couldn't expect to go from level one to 10 without going through all the in-betweens. Many Neo-Pagans continue traditions like this to this day.

In Buddhism, you are expected to do a certain amount of learning, for example, before you take the Bodhisattva Vow.

I go on too long; you get what I am saying.

lucy said...

blisschick--i think i see what you are saying about exclusion vs. admittance...and in my head i understand the concept, but it still FEELS exclusionary in the moment.

the situation reminds me of Jesus saying "Let the little children come..." even when the elders tried to shoo them away.