Invitation and Blessing
Given all that is happening in the world and in our beloved Capitol lately, during yesterday's celebration for the young boys and girls at St. Alban's who were prayed for and blessed by the church as they symbolically, or ontologically, perhaps, move from adolescence to womanhood and manhood, I used a special invitation to communion and ended the service with something known as the "Fourfold Franciscan Blessing."
When greeting parishioners as the left the church yesterday many commented on the joy of the service (something we are hearing a lot lately), mentioning in particular the joy of seeing the lives and commitments of the young men and women in our midst being lifted up, celebrated and blessed by the church. Many also commented on the invitation to communion and final blessing and asked where they came from.
The invitation to communion comes from the Iona Community. As readers will learn when visiting the Iona Community's website, "the Iona Community was founded in Glasgow and Iona in 1938 by George MacLeod, minister, visionary and prophetic witness for peace, in the context of the poverty and despair of the Depression. From a dockland parish in Govan, Glasgow, he took unemployed skilled craftsmen and young trainee clergy to Iona to rebuild both the monastic quarters of the mediaeval abbey and the common life by working and living together, sharing skills and effort as well as joys and achievement. That original task became a sign of hopeful rebuilding of community in Scotland and beyond. The experience shaped – and continues to shape – the practice and principles of the Iona Community." Today the Iona Community describes itself as "a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship." With those commitments the Iona Community is also deeply concerned with preserving the "integrity of creation." Here's the invitation to communion, or Eucharist. In the Ionian order of service the invitation is spoken before the bread and wine are consecrated by a priest:
The table of bread and wine is now to be made ready.
It is the table of company with Jesus,
and all who love him.
It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world,
with whom Jesus identified himself.
It is the table of communion with the earth,
in which Christ became incarnate.
So come to this table,
you who have much faith
and you who would like to have more;
you who have been here often
and you who have not been for a while;
you who have tried to follow Jesus,
and you who have failed;
It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.
The origins of the Fourfold Franciscan Blessing are less clear and the prayer is sometimes attributed to the Benedictines rather than the Franciscans but regardless of where it originated the prayer is profoundly inspiring:
May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen
May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen
May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. Amen
May God bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen
Happy Monday, and may God bless us all with discomfort, anger, tears, foolishness, and with greater faith as we sit at the table of company with Jesus...