“All Are Welcome” – on Communion, and limits.

I was at a retreat and heard the sound of Mass. The songs were familiar. The words were familiar. I have spent many years as an Episcopalian. The Catholic service is close. It is like the difference between England and America – everything is almost the same. I could have joined in and faked it. I could have taken Communion. It has been four months since I’ve had the sacrament of Communion. I miss it.

I wanted to join in, but knew I shouldn’t. Catholic rules say only Catholics can get Communion. Jesus didn’t make any such rules, but when in Rome…or dealing with Roman Catholicism…it is best to play by their rules, even if I think the rules are wrong. Even if I know the rules are wrong.

I’ve spent the past day at a convent for retired Catholic nuns. There are two chapels – one big and one small. They both have a box called an aumbry or tabernacle for the reserved sacrament. It is where you put consecrated Communion wafers. Before they are consecrated they are just wafers. After a priest has blessed them, they are different. They are so different that they are separated from the others in a special box. The Catholics believe that the wafers become the actual flesh of Jesus when they are blessed by the priest.

Here is a picture of the altar in the little chapel.

box 5

Here’s slightly closer.

box 1

I know that consecrated wafers were in them because the candle beside the altar was lit.

box 2

The candle means Jesus is in.

I can’t even tell you how tempted I was to see if the box was locked. Yes, these boxes have locks on them, but often they are open. If I tried the door and it opened, would I have taken a wafer?

Here’s a picture closer up of the box, showing the lock.

box 4

Taking one out would be stealing. That would have been the same as attending Mass and going up to take Communion, knowing full well that their rules say I can’t. No – actually, it would have been worse. It would have been sneaky and sly. It would have been taking something like a thief.

When I was wandering around the room, I came across a little statue with some candles around it. I saw the key behind the statue.

box 3

I felt like I was part of some adventure game, where you find the key to the locked door with the treasure. Remember those? You’d use simple instructions with a verb and a noun to get across what you wanted to do.

Take Key. Go East. Go to Box. Use Key. Open Box. Take Wafer. Eat Wafer.

And then I’d win a bonus life in the game.

But I didn’t. I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t even touch the key.

The Methodist church that sponsored the retreat has Communion every Sunday. They say on their website that their Communion is open to all. “All are welcome” is their motto. They even go so far as to explain that this means everybody – members of that church, members of other churches, and people who have never been to church. This is a welcome surprise. This means that people who aren’t baptized can take Communion there.

This is a radical departure from the Episcopal Church. This is right up my alley.

I’m all for opening up Communion to everyone. While I was part of a church that allowed people from other denominations to take Communion there, it still didn’t allow unbaptized people to. Sure, there is nobody checking baptismal records at the altar rail, but still, the rule is there, printed in the church bulletin you got when you came in the front door. When you read it, you know you’re out. You know you are breaking a rule if you put out your hands for a wafer.

It isn’t the role of Christians to stand in the way of Christ. Who are we to set rules and parameters as to who is worthy? If someone is called to the table, who are we to stand in their way?

Jesus is all about welcoming and including. Jesus is all about breaking down barriers. Jesus is all about leveling the playing field. Jesus is all about opening doors wide open and inviting everybody in.

Bonus life, indeed. This is a game where all can play. It isn’t a game of musical chairs, where there are limits on who is in. We all win. We all are invited, and blessed, and loved. We all are. No exceptions.

On keys, and doors

I am mesmerized by keys.

I collect antique keys and make them into necklaces. I love the look and feel of old metal keys. I imagine their history. Who used them? How many people have owned the thing that this key unlocks? How many hands have touched these keys?

This tiny bit of metal is all that is required to open up this huge door, this wall that is standing before me like a bouncer at a club, saying None May Pass. This tiny thing is all I require to gain access to my heart’s desire.

Perhaps this fondness comes from Alice in Wonderland. Everything got a little strange when she fell down that rabbit hole – but to me the first really strange part was when she encountered that tiny door behind the curtain.

She had the key, but she couldn’t figure out the right sequence to use the door.

I like keys like this, and stories like this. I like real keys and imaginary keys. I like what keys represent.

I have a TARDIS key. You know, just in case. Just in case time and space travel is real, I’m ready if Doctor Who just happens to leave that beautiful, mad, blue box parked along my walking path that day. It is good to be prepared.

I have a key to a phone booth. I have a key to a piano. I have a key to a Ford that was driven long before I could even say the word “automobile”.

These keys are beautiful and poetic and sad. They are missing their locks. They are missing their purpose.

But I keep them anyway. You never know.

They are kind of a focus, a meditation tool. Always be prepared. Notice that it is a small thing that opens a large thing.

What doors are in front of me? What is barring my way? What have I not even noticed is a door, that is preventing me from getting where I need to be?

If you have a key, you’ll be reminded of the door. One points towards the other.

Poem – Key

It is better to have a key and no door
than a door and no key.

The door, locked, will afford no entry,
no progress towards your goal.
Save for a bit of metal, this wall of wood
is all that stands between you
and happiness.

But a key and no door?
You’re in luck!
Nothing is barred.
Your way is clear.
The path stretches out before you
like a full day off with nothing on the agenda.

Everything is open.

But just
in case
a door
quietly slinks up
in front of your very eyes

You have a key, already
ready

to do the trick.