Wednesday 13 October 2021

Push through and run

Our annual Quarant’ore devotion — Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament all weekend — begins with a Solemn Mass on Friday evening. The Sacrament will remain exposed, and the church open, all night and throughout the next day, interrupted only by the celebration of Mass. Staying up all night does feel like something of a marathon, like a great feat of endurance, and there are times when one feels the need to just keep going, just push through. But as much as the forty hours seem like a race of sorts, they should not be a race of strength or endurance — as if this time were the intrusion into our lives or a distraction that takes us away from more pressing things. We do this because we know Christ is our goal; and the thousand other things that clamour for our attention and draw us away from our real source and centre, they are the intrusion and the distraction. We need to “push through” such things and run to Christ, calming our restless bodies and distracted minds and, even if it is for the briefest of time, relearn what it means to rest gently in his love.

If you come to our church on Friday night or the early hours of Saturday distracted, inconvenienced, worrying about how the laundry is going to get done, or the dinner cooked, or wishing you were on the sofa watching the telly, then you will be in good company. To one degree or another, we all are distracted. If sitting in silence before the Lord makes you uncomfortable, if you think “what am I supposed to do?”, or “how am I supposed to pray?” — join the club. Silence can be uncomfortable. It forces us into the encounter with ourselves and the God who speaks in the depths of our being. Push through and run! That is why the Forty Hours are punctuated by Compline, Benediction, Masses, Musical Oratory — we have a chance to rest and recharge.

For what is placed in the monstrance, is a Who and not a thing — he is Christ the Lord, and we come to be in his company, in his presence. This we know and believe with all our hearts. But even though we will see the Host, seemingly immovable and inactive, enthroned in its monstrance, surrounded by candles and flowers and gold hangings, we know and believe with all our hearts that there is more happening than the eye can see. Christ is not inactive and immovable in the Eucharist. In this sacrament, he continually pours himself out in love for us and for the world he came to save. We gaze on him in the Blessed Sacrament because he first gazed upon us, not with a look of reproach or judgment, but with eyes of love, a look that pierces us to the soul and sees into the core of our being, loving us, calling out to us, asking that we forsake our sinful ways and our petty distractions, and return our love for his. Where Christ is, there is heaven and when Christ comes he never comes alone. All of heaven draws near to us, the angels and the saints, our brothers and sisters who have gone on before us draw close; past, present and future all converge in him who is the Lord of time and history. This is why when the Christian prays, he or she never prays alone. And this gift, this call to step out of time and into his company, is given not because we deserve it, nor is it denied us because we are sinful. It is given because of the love he has for us, and the mercy with which he deals with us until the day when our time is ended.

What are our to-do lists compared to this? What is one hour or so away from the telly or computer in comparison? What is so hard, really, about spending time with the One who loves us? Nothing surely.

So we still our souls, we raise our hearts and minds and voices to the Lord; we put aside our distractions for a time; we cease worrying about how we are to pray; prayer, after all, is not the words we speak, it is listening to the heart of God speaking to our hearts, and our hearts making their fleeting, and faltering, and yet eminently precious answer to his love. So come to the Lord this weekend during the Forty Hours, if not for the all-night vigil then at least for an hour or so. He will be waiting to spend time with you.