Human beings always seem to want answers. The more technology available to us the more we delve into our search for information. We Google everything! It’s not a bad thing but I do wonder about our loss of appreciation for the mysterious, the impossible to understand.
As mainline Christian denominations face declining numbers, I see this as a common denominator for many of us who want to make church and religion “user friendly” and more palatable to the seekers of the twenty-first century. There are certainly welcoming strategies we should put in place to make the newcomer feel less of a stranger. Are we also trying to eliminate any sense of mystery in our well-meaning approach?
In my humble opinion, we do both our ancient and venerable tradition a disservice when we compromise our worship by trying to appeal to folks we think will only darken our doors if we cater to contemporary tastes in music and ritual. In fact, it seems that our millennial generation find time-honored, mystical yet authentic forms of worship more compelling than not. Recognizing the frenetic, noisy, competetive world in which most of them have to operate this is not a surprise.
This Sunday at the church* at which I am rector we will offer a celebration of Choral Evensong that concludes with a rite called “Benediction.” The exquisite music sung by our adult choir will feature nineteenth and twentieth century composers and will be awe-inspiring. Candles, incense and rose-colored vestments all help transport the audience to a “thin place” which conveys an aura of deep mystery. Then, near the end of this fifty minute service, a consecrated wafer – the Bread of Life – is displayed in a golden vessel and raised over the people in an act of blessing.
This all may seem strange to some. It is certainly not the norm in most churches. It is – this whole notion that Jesus might be present in the bread put into our hands during the Eucharist or put on view in such a public and peculiar way – very mysterious, very difficult to understand. Yet, wherever we land in terms of our belief about how Christ is present in such an ordinary substance as bread, there is something to be said for the kind of mystery it represents, especially in a culture where we have such a burning desire to figure everything out.
The way I see it, we could all use a little more “difficult or impossible to understand” moments in life, a little more mystery, if only to remind us that there is One greater than we are and who is the Author of all that is known and unknown.
*Choral Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be offered at 5 pm on Sunday, March 26, at St. Paul’s on the Green, 60 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT. All are welcome—believers, doubters, the unchurched, bored Christians and non-Christians.