Father Seraphim of Nazareth House, tall, gaunt, long graying beard, preached today. He preached on the Holy Spirit. What is it? he asked. Many are unsure, and that isn’t right, since the Holy Spirit seeks to make all things clear for us. He wore a white cotta over his black robe and I knew his beads were looped at his waist. For Father Seraphim prays, almost, perhaps, unceasingly, as Saint Paul exhorts us to do.
We learned a great deal from Father Seraphim in the last few days. He gave two workshops on prayer, uniting the ways of the East and the West, guiding us on our own prayer journeys. We learned the Jesus prayer, the prayer breathed in and out, that becomes an innate part of each of us. We learned to live in the moment, for that is where God is. And we learned much more from this saintly man.
Father Seraphim speaks in a relaxed manner, with a deep voice that comes, like his prayers, from his breathing, deep from his heart. He laughs at himself, his own foibles, and we laugh with him, thinking they are ours too, which of course, they are. He is a simple man who loves God (the vertical of the Cross) and loves his fellow man (the horizontal of the Cross.) And the Holy Spirit connects us all.
For the Holy Spirit is the bond linking our relationships. He teaches us to love. He prompts, coaches, suggests, leads. He comforts, encourages, strengthens.
In the last few days, as many of us in the Anglican Province of Christ the King joined together in our annual Synod, I knew the Holy Spirit was doing all those things, weaving among us, pulling in the odd strands, making a whole cloth, one of infinite beauty.
Many moments ring in my memory, golden notes, pure tones. One was the sermon preached yesterday, Saturday, at our Eucharistic celebration. The priests of our Diocese had processed down the red carpeted aisle of Saint Peter’s Oakland, the incense swirling before them, the torchbearers holding their flames steady, the crucifer raising the great crucifix over all. We sang, Alleluia, Sing to Jesus, and that we did, our voices soaring, uniting, in this song of love.
Our preacher that Saturday, Father Mautner of St. Stephen’s Oakville in the Napa Valley, climbed to the pulpit and leaned toward us, his voice and eyes on fire. The Exodus was the journey of the Words, the tablets, he tells us. Commandment means word, and the Ten Commandments were the Ten Words of God carved on stone and given to Moses. The tablets were shattered, broken. Christ will be the new broken tablet on the Cross, laid in the tomb, the ark of His testimony, the womb of our salvation. Bread would be broken, the bread that was and is Christ’s Body, broken for us then on the Cross and now as the Host. Just as the tablets had been placed in the Ark of the Covenant, so the Word made flesh, made Host, enters our own bodies, our arks, becoming Words written on our heart. The Testimony, the Words, the Eucharist, is broken, blessed, given. When you receive, our preacher says with a clear urgency, hear the shattering as your hand holds Him, and you become the Ark of the Testimony. Taste and touch and vision – we are arks carrying the Words. Obey, drink, discern, see, know Him. Allow God to write his law on the table of your heart. This is how we add our stories to His Body.
Stunned with the images, I received the Word, the Host, the Body broken for me. I joined the line of my brothers and sisters, linked by the Holy Spirit, and soon to be made one flesh in the Eucharistic Word, the Host.
Two great preachers in two days, two shattering Hosts entering my flesh, uniting me with Christ’s Body, a great blessing indeed.