Those that read this blog regularly know about the Contemplative Eucharists that I do on Wednesday mornings (and now, also on Saturday afternoons). It's basically just a Communion service done in a contemplative style. Lots of silence and meditation. Over time it has evolved. Now I have a regular group of four people who come almost every week. I've also moved away from a set text and now do all the prayers (including the Eucharistic prayers) extemporaneously.
I could write a whole essay (or even a book) about the "how" and "why" of praying the Eucharistic off-the-cuff. Certainly it's not something I would recommend to just anybody, it takes a lot of preparation and discipline to do with the integrity. But there is an ancient precedent for this sort of prayer in the Mozarabic Rite. Also keep in mind that this is not something I do on Sunday mornings and I have the permission of the Bishop. The final ingredient is a community of worshippers who are sophisticated enough in their theology and well formed enough in their spirituality to make this work.
And when it works... it's gorgeous. This morning was one of those mornings when I think we all felt blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. After doing the liturgy we spent some time talking, as is our custom. The topic was the Gospel text for the day--Jesus talking about how he has come to fulfil, not abolish, the law. From that we started talking about the freedom we have in Christ and the discipline of living a holy life. It was beautiful.
It occurred to me, afterwards, that building up this little service for four people has required a lot of discipline from me. I've had to show up every Wednesday for years to make this happen. And the spiritual rewards for that work are beyond value, as far as I am concerned.
It's a classic pattern of ministry, and has taught me an important lesson about priest-craft. Gathering and building up a community of disciples of Jesus takes time and the wilingness to show up, week after week, even when the ground seems dry and unyielding. Forget about quick fixes and rejoice in small blessings.
I'm going to Canterbury Cathedral this summer for a retreat. I'm thinking that I should add a few days to the trip to see if I can find some little groups of Christ-followers that have stories of faithfulness I can bring back to Toronto.