Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Book for Eucharist Geeks Like Me

Yesterday, I read most of Nora Gallagher's The Sacred Meal in one big gulp. What a delightful book! It's accessible, it's short, it's poetic, it sings the joy of one of the sacraments--add it to your reading list.

I've loved Nora Gallagher since I read Things Seen and Unseen, a book I return to again and again. Her writing is beautiful, her theology sound, and she always makes me think. This book didn't tell me much I didn't already know about the Eucharist, but I enjoyed reading it.

She says that the Eucharist "is the one practice that is really about ingesting spirit, eating what we call God but what may as well be called taking a bite out of infinity" (14). She says this about spiritual practices: "A practice is meant to connect you with what is deeply alive, to stir in you the same kind of aliveness that the disciples of Jesus must have felt around him. A practice trains and disciplines the mind to head toward compassion rather than toward greed. A practice is not about finding exactly the right set of rules that will make you 'good' but is instead meant to establish a habit of connection to a world that is both tenuous and surprising, outside of time and in it" (page 25).

The book is full of nuggets like these. It's also full of history and background, which will be useful for people who come from traditions that don't emphasize Communion.

She also ties in Eucharist theology to the work that we do in the world, especially the social justice work that some of us might do (often in contrast to the work we might do to earn money). Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book: "To be exalted by earthly standards is to be constantly aware of who is not exalted or to be looking over one's shoulder for who might be more exalted next. It is to be anxious. To be exalted by heavenly standards is to urge others to be exalted, too, to share in the bounty of being loved and loving" (128).

This book is part of the splendid series, The Ancient Practices Series, brought to us by Thomas Nelson publishers. Just this week, I finished reading Joan Chittister's The Liturgical Year. I've read all but two books in the series, and I've loved them all. While they haven't told me much that I didn't already know, it's always good to read in a different voice, to be reminded of the precious nature of that knowledge.


Mrs. M said...

Love it! Love the idea of the series (note to self to look into it), and particularly love the distinction between heavenly and earthly exalted-ness.

And today, really finding joy in your love of liturgy. It feels good to share that with someone, even cyber-ly. Thank you.

Kristin said...

Your comment prompted my post for Friday; I bet you would love Chittister's book!