There comes a time in one’s life, a time in one’s week, a time in one’s time bracketed by calendars and clocks and digital devices, when the cares of the world seem to weigh heavily, crowding upon one another, demanding attention. The cares of the world – those cares we read in print and view in video – those public cares – layer on top of our own personal cares, until we cry that there is no room for more.
I have found a solution to this problem of crowding: I retreat an hour a week into corporate prayer, that is, praying to God in front of the Real Presence of God, with others beside me, two or three gathered, the priest guiding my meditation. In this way I am praying with the power of the Church, through adoration in the liturgy of Benediction, where the Host is placed on view in a monstrance on the altar.
As Anglo-Catholics, we believe that the Real Presence of Christ is in that Host. It is a mystery, but a reality promised by Our Lord. At our university chapel in Berkeley, we have added a weekday service of noon Benediction (Tuesdays.) It is a time of quiet, a time to contemplate the God who has humbled himself in this way. It is a time to lay before him all those cares of the world, all the burdens of the week. It is a time that trains our inner ear to hear his voice, to receive his blessing, his peace.
Peace is good. But peace is fragile, as we are learning in Berkeley. Peace is not easily found in our public square. Free speech is shut down by threatening violence or violent threats. Conversations are controlled, forbidden, and shamed into silence. So we pray for peace in Berkeley. We pray for freedom to speak, and freedom to think. We pray for peace and freedom, one hour a week in our Berkeley chapel.
We pray for peace in our hearts, that those warring and wearing cares not defeat us. We pray for answers to our problems of the moment, for healing of our wounds and those of our friends and families.
Our priest places the monstrance on the altar, with the golden rays fanning like the sun around the Son, and he takes a seat in the back pew, speaking softly from time to time, helping us in the way of prayer, the words to use, the images to see. He leads us gently as we focus on the golden rays and the white Host in its center.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I was stunned by the soothing silence, a silence that slips sweetly into the soul, a healing silence. As the prayers took form, basking in the Real Presence of Christ, my cares were reborn, transfigured by grace. The hour at times seemed long, and I learned patience. But also, the hour at times seemed short, and I feared its ending.
When the hour of Benediction did end, we sang a hymn of thanksgiving. And all week, the golden rays shone in my mind. As the cares of the world and the cares of my life flooded into my days, the golden rays and white Host poured grace into my time. They were like a lighthouse, a bright point of reference and remembrance, a signpost to my true home, a beacon that warned of danger and led to safety.
A family friend returned to his true home this last week, ending his long journey on earth. He was ready, a faithful servant, and God took him home to be with him, to praise him with the chorus of angels. He no longer needs the Real Presence in the Host. He is with God, our very God of very God, our Light of Light.
The light of our sun was dimmed last week, eclipsed by our moon. As I watched the moon throw the earth into darkness, the sun shimmered from behind, forming a circle of gold. The light could not be put out, could not really be eclipsed. Just so, the stars travel the night skies and the moon rises and falls, waxes and wanes over our little planet, Earth. We tumble through a darkness lit by Heaven.
Our hearts are dark, full of grief and grievance, needing such heavenly light. Such light does indeed shine in the darkness, even though the darkness comprehends it not. For God sent his true light into our world to reveal our true hearts, to open them wide, so that we might see and believe, comprehend and repent.
Spending an hour before the Blessed Sacrament amidst the golden rays does indeed lighten our burdens by enlightening our hearts. And as He shines into our souls, He brightens our days to come, until the next hour of Benediction renews that right spirit within us.
Noon Prayers and Benediction: Tuesdays, St. Joseph of Arimathea Collegiate Chapel, Durant and Bowditch, Berkeley. Schedule can change – please check for updates on the website. All who come in peace are welcome.