When the student is ready the buddha will appear...

The moon was particularly stunning last night - and I found myself mostly unable to sleep.  Between 3 and 4 am, therefore, I found myself looking through an old book by Fr. Ed Hays: Psalms for Zero Gravity - Prayers for Life's Emigrants. I have valued the "deep ecumenism" of Hays since the early 70s when a farm worker ally shared his mimeographed copies of the "letters from the forest" with me.

Of particular interest to me last night were the psalms/prayers/reflections re: communion.  Throughout the summer we'll be celebrating Eucharist again every week and holding "worship talk back" sessions after the liturgy.  In this we can critically reflect on the practice of the day and do a bit of formation, too.  What Hays wrote took me by surprise - his insights about the Lord's Supper are both incarnational and mystical - and invite people of faith to see how Eucharist can become the heart of all Christian formation.  It is our primary lens for how we live in compassion and justice as well as prayer and humility if we are willing to learn.  For example, he notes that:

+ All too often, keeping Christ's commandment to love one another as he loved us in the breaking of the bread has become a ritual that only clergy can initiate.  Hays asks:  "are those who are entrusted with the commission obedient disciples or copyright pirates? Jesus' words that enshrine the memory are indeed copyrighted today - that is, they are restricted to the clergy - but that has not always been the case... Indeed, it has been discovered that the first document making a distinction between laity and ritually ordained clergy didn't appear until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215."  That means that for over a thousand years the rigid distinctions of clericalism were held in check by a vibrant and engaged laity.

+ Another bold idea that Hays reminds us of is that if we only celebrate communion with our hearts and minds we are "living below the poverty line as only stingy lovers would restrict how much of themselves is available to their lover."  We have lips and ears, bodies and souls to share and nourish, yes?  We also have suffering to move through and joy to embrace.  In this, communion is more about waking up so that we might become fully alive rather than fulfilling a religious rule.  He also share both intimacy and awe with God, yes?

My friend and lover, I speak to you
   confident and assured.
For you are no high and mighty potentate
   adorned with grand and lofty titles,
   who demands abject adoration
   or else heads will roll.

You are no majestic earthly ruler
   that I need to address with deferential names.
Rather, you are my father, mother, friend and lover,
   and I am your child and beloved.
So what need do I have of elaborate court ritual?

I can't scrape and crawl before you
   when we're so intimate
   and do everything together.
So I kiss your lips and not your shoes;
   I hug not the ground, but you.

And then, in the very next poem, Hays reminds us of the ineffable and awesome truth of the holy, too.  God is simultaneously mystically intimate and awesomely other.

+  And then there this challenge by Hays that warrants consideration:  beware of the dogs!  "Beware of the watchdogs of religion, how viciously they bark and bite. Dobermans of dogma, thirsty for blood, Bible defenders, guard dogs of the literal. Beware of the growling, heresy-hunting dogs prowling orthodoxy's rigid chair-link fences." How have our habits - and the rules of our various traditions - cut us off from living fully alive and fully connected to our bodies and all of creation?  How has a narrow sense of ritual impoverished our imagination and conscience?

Two early morning thoughts took shape and form as the eve of Solstice rolled into our first day of summer:  First, when the student is ready, the Buddha will appear.  I knew there was one level for our summer communion series, but this new resource will take us profoundly deeper.  And second, there is another dog image that needs to be included in this mix as part of a radical invitation into balance: love dogs.
One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with praising,
until a cynic said, “So!
I’ve heard you calling our, but have you ever
gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?” “Because
I’ve never heard anything back.”

“This longing you express
is the return message.”

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.

In my fuzzy pre-dawn reading, I was shaken awake by this prayer/poem that is likely to be at the heart of this summer's series:  "Do This in Memory of Me" Psalm:

Beloved Jesus, Lord of the Meal, I rejoice
   that a mother and a father,
   laboring for their family,
   begin and end each day's work saying:
   "This is my body, this is my blood."

And adult child nursing a sick elderly parent
   with compassion and patient care says:
   "This is my body, this is my blood."

A volunteer giving time to a needy cause
   without thanks or acknowledgment says:
   "This is my body, this is my blood."

A preacher, with prayerful study, preparing a homily
   that no one may remember or be moved by, says:
   "This is my body, this is my blood."

A singer forgetting self and the audience,
   making love out of the music says:
   "This is my body, this is my blood."

Artist or teacher, dancer or doctor,
   auto mechanic or office worker,
   attending to each details or their work
   with full-hearted involvement proclaim:
   "This is my body, this is my blood."

Ten thousand thousand consecrations occur daily,
   as all heaven's angels chime in:  Holy, holy holy
   to the thunderous praise
   of a thousand silent silver bells.
Listen.  Listen.

In a few days we depart of sweet Montreal - I'm sure as we wander and listen to the music other truths will grab my attention, too.

1) www.stlydiasplace.com
2) campus.udayton.edu
3) eucharist-tangaza.blogspot.com


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