Our culture is about weakening the ‘yes’ in us to revealed religion. As a consequence, the human self is so distracted and fragmented that it loses itself. We can no longer commit ourselves to the Word of God in a disciplined way. The person still might be interested in ‘spirituality’, but no longer capable of regular worship, and all the toiling it entails.
How did we get here? Why don’t we pay attention to understanding this fall? For this is a great fall indeed; that of ‘the European self’. What Saint Paul says in Hebrews, should be equally disturbing for the individual and culture as well. ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened [in Christ], and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.’ (Hebrews 6,4-7) We should have no illusion, on a daily basis, through the sin of distraction, we are drifting away from our truer, redeemed, self.
That is why Ascension (the Lord’s return to Heaven) and Pentecost are so important. They posit a vertical axis, piercing through our permanent fall. This liberating direction can reverse our free fall in the sin of forgetting the God of revelation. ‘For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God.’ (v.7)
That is why the thought of the day on Radio4 was so consoling. There is an Exodus from the culture of distraction! David Wilkinson (Durham University) made us focus on the Eucharist as a powerful resource. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said something which was shocking to his environment. The communion bread and wine is available to all, not just to those who are already committed Christians. Many opposed this thought by saying that sinners first must repent. But Wesley believed that the grace of this meal could change anyone who is open to it.
There is an alternative to the unopposed forgetting of grace! Ascension and Pentecost is a powerful reminder that there is a sphere above our present sleep. The ‘axis of grace’, as our lost orientation, is there if we make an attempt to speak the truth.
The above said puts the ‘holy communion’ into a fresh light. Today, more than ever, eating the body and blood of Christ, is crucially important. As individuals and as a culture we must go to this table. We receive communion in order to the speak the truth. In order to be able to speak the Truth.
It is, highly probable, is a Wesleyan moment in culture. The Eucharist must be offered to all, marked by the culture of forgetting. For ‘that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.’ (v.8) Without enabling the Christian self, our culture’s barrenness is perpetuated.
This is also a ‘monastic’ moment for the individual. Step by step, the moments of distraction, has to be switched off. Everyone can become a monastery. A place of prayer and desire for the power of the Communion which heals.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..