Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: The Sacred Meal

I just finished reading The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher, one of the eight books in the Ancient Practices Series. I really enjoyed this book and the perspective it gives on the Lord's Supper.
Phyllis Tickle, the editor, gives a foreword for the book which she explains that this book is about one Christian's lifelong engagement with the Eucharist and about the richness of being sometimes among the weeping and sometimes among the serving. And I would agree with her, I felt like this book was a reflection of the authors life regarding the Eucharist.
In the introduction we learn that Nora Gallagher has two perspectives about Communion, that of a layperson and that of a Episcopal priest, she went through the process of ordination. She goes on to unpack this spiritual practice. She says "Unlike a habit, like driving down the same street from work to home every day, the purpose of a spiritual practice is to help us stay awake." That statement really stuck out to me because I agree that spiritual practice bring us out of our routines and make us aware of God's presence.
As she starts to unpack Communion as a practice she points out that Communion goes on all over the world in many churches in different languages but in much the same form. I really like that reminder, because it is easy for me to get stuck in my silo of my church and I tend to forget that this ancient practice has been happening for thousands of years and takes place around the world! She also explains that Communion, like other spiritual practices, has the intention of moving us out of one place and into another.
She then breaks down the practice of Communion into three parts: waiting, receiving and afterward. The waiting part is a warming up, it brings us out of our routine and prepares us for something else. Gallagher says "Communion is meant to remind us of a place we can go that may not be always visible in daily life." Part of warming up, in many churches, is a time of confession, whether a brief confession or saying the Lord's Prayer as a congregation, this part of Communion prepares us.
Next comes receiving and that is really the important part here, that we receive. Nora observes that in our fast pace culture we have made productivity our greatest and most important goal and often times we miss out on the ways that God's gift of grace comes to us by doing nothing.
After the receiving is the afterward, Nora describes this as the time when we are closest to heaven. She says, and I love this, "Part of 'afterward' is letting an experience of the holy seep into your cells so that even when your brain decides it didn't happen or you made it up, you have a cellular memory."
She goes on to finish the book by talking about some of the myths and traditions associated with Communion as well as a brief history. I really enjoyed her personal take on the Lord's Supper. This book has plenty of her stories from both serving Communion and receiving Communion.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book and I think it is a great perspective of this ancient tradition.

I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson Publishers "BookSneeze" book review program. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

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