Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Faith and the Eucharist

One of the things I miss about Los Alamos is that every time I went out, I would see someone I knew. David M. used to work in the Smith's produce section, and when I ran into him there, we would talk about theology and philosophy and poetry. One of the conversations I had with David was a foray into the eternal nature of the Eucharist. We were talking about science fiction tropes and wormholes and time warps and things like that, when one of us (I don't remember which) noted that the Eucharist was like a portal into every Church at every time and place where there was or will be a Mass or tabernacle, from the first Mass at the Last Supper and its culmination on the Cross, to the small adoration chapel in Los Alamos, to the Masses in Nazi concentration camps, to Fr. Damian's Masses on Molokai...  present in the Eucharist at every Mass, present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in every Tabernacle, is the Same Christ. In a very real way, when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we are united to the whole Church. The Holy Spirit dwelling within all baptized Christians is the same, and as the song says, "We are one Body In Christ... and we do not stand alone." How cool is that!? Way cooler than anything any sci-fi author or screen writer or director has dreamt up.

Anyway, several times while on mission I have thought back to that same conversation with David (and others, of course!) and pictured the very real connection between the people in worship here in Kumbo and those we love back home. While we talk about and notice cultural differences, one thing that is the same is the faith. Of course, it is expressed in local, culturally different ways, but it is the same Mass, the same Eucharist, the same Creed that we profess. Regardless of cultural ideas about time, In the Mass, the timeless rules: our God present in the Eucharist is eternal, and when we receive communion we are united to the whole Church, here in Kumbo, in Los Alamos, in Virginia, in Rome, everywhere.

One thing I like is the ubiquitous nature of Faith here in Cameroon. Many people thank God in everyday conversation: "It is a nice day, it is not raining, we thank God for that." "I found what I had lost, we thank God for that." Not only are people grateful to God, but they are not afraid to express it. I'll admit that in the States, it can be difficult for me to use language like that. I feel self-conscious, but here it is natural. It should be natural back home, too! What is more natural than thanking God for what he has provided? Hopefully, here I will learn to be more grateful.

Another wonderful thing about the faith here is how the Sabbath is observed: Many shops are closed on Sundays, if their owners are Christian. Muslim owners close down on Fridays. (I'm sure if there were Jewish people here, they would close on Saturday.)  A few times I have gone to Junction to get some eggs or candles or what have you from the Muslim-owned shop we frequent, only to realize it is Friday and they are closed. I am put out for a moment, but very grateful that they take their faith seriously. The same for the Christians: how wonderful it is that I can't see my tailor on Sunday, or I can't buy my small things from the Christian-owned shop. It certainly makes me want to keep the Sabbath more mindfully.

I guess in a way my time here "On Mission" is teaching me to integrate my faith and my life, to make it so there is no difference or incongruity between the to, to really live my faith. I thank God for that!


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