Holy Communion

Yesterday, to escape the rain and cold, we drove into Central. It was wet and cold , although it was a lovely day back home in Dunedin by all accounts; at least, it was until we arrived back just in time for the southerly change. It was a pleasant day, all the same, and , ended graciously, gracefully, meaningfully with dinner. There were five of us: two men and three women, two of us ordained, although in different denominations. There was a most delicious vegetarian casserole, a bottle of excellent pinot noir, a comfortable room and of course, conversation. All of us had undergone profound and challenging experiences in the past few months; we were all very aware of each of the others present, and of our dead and of the one who had guided all of us through this past year. We sat and talked as the food was passed around, and for a long time after. The darkness seeped into the room ; it truly was a holy time, and no one wanted to break the warmth of the communion by getting up to turn on the light. Late in the evening, in the soft grey darkness we held hands and sought God's blessing on each other and then left for our homes knowing that we, all of us, had unfinished business and that we were some how bound to help each other continue. Each one of us had met four others: truly met them.

To encounter the consciousness of another human being is one of the things - no, it is THE thing which helps me define my own consciousness. Martin Buber, in I and Thou, speaks of this encounter as one of the two great primal shapers of our lives: one being the encounter with objectivity: that is the knowledge of things as an IT apart from myself; the other being the subjective encounter with another consciousness as THOU. Encountering another consciousness is a rare thing, and is temporary; almost as soon as we have done it we destroy the encounter by turning it into an experience: by objectifying it and thinking about it; by classifying and analysing and remembering the other, Thou becomes It. Thus, the I - Thou encounter becomes a "relationship" to be "worked at" and thus devalued.

Buber was a Jew and he recognised the I -Thou encounter as the heart of Judaism; the true, depth meeting of people is what the Torah encourages and pushes for. And more, the mystical tradition of Judaism is that which teaches and encourages an encounter with the Nameless One as "Thou". In my encounter with Thou, either human or divine, I become known to the other and to myself. And Jesus deepened and refined this tradition, so that the faith we proclaim is an I Thou encounter with the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Shaped and transformed by the great consciousness we are freed to encounter those around us with new openess and vulnerbility and depth.

True encounter. True communion with God and with other conscious beings. If we are not doing this, we have lost our way. And by and large we are not. And by and large we have. But as I relearned last night, it is not a difficult thing to do, and when it happens the results are astonishing; life forming and life changing.

As human beings; as parishes; as a diocese we can and must and will find our way again.


Elaine Dent said…
It's about time I read Martin Buber's book.
simonmarsh.org said…
THANK YOU for this. I've a feeling that your words, fashioned in New Zealand, are going to become one of my favourite "quotable quotes" over here in the UK! (Sorry :) )

I shall continue to follow your journeying with interest and prayer. Joy and peace to you in all the preparations.

Peter Llewellyn said…
Very wise, reading it probably ought to be compulsory or something. Your story shows how communion, encounter at the "I-Thou" level, can't be programmed or made to happen, but arises in and out of profound unpredictability. Ritual and good practice facilitate but the wind still blows where it will. Even so, I reckon the best possible start to an episcopacy, and bodes well for the diocese. I hope you have a good Registrar to attend to the infinite I-its.