Monday, June 15, 2009

Spiritual Times Tables

I remember learning all my Multiplications tables as a child. I could recite them all by rote from a fairly young age. In fact I knew the 'What' long before I knew the 'Why'. As I got older I learned exactly how 6 x 7 and 42 were connected, but for a while it was just a fact I had memorized, no different from knowing the points of the compass or the states of the U.S.

Yesterday in church we were reciting the Apostle's Creed and my mind was wandering. Like the Multiplication tables, the Apostle's Creed is something I know by heart, so my mind was not particularly engaged. I caught myself saying a line wrong simply because I wasn't paying attention.

I declared confidently from the choir loft that 'I believe in.....the communion of sinners'.

My first thought was hoping that the choir mike was not on because I didn't want my mistake being amplified, I wondered whether I could substitute the omitted word into the next line instead '......the forgiveness of saints'.

The word Communion is a polyvalent word - one with many meanings.

1. (often initial capital letter) Also called Holy Communion. Ecclesiastical.
a. The act of receiving the Eucharistic elements.
b. The elements of the Eucharist.
c. The celebration of the Eucharist.
d. The antiphon sung at a Eucharistic service.

2. a group of persons having a common religious faith; a religious denomination: Anglican communion.

3. Association; fellowship.

4. Interchange or sharing of thoughts or emotions; intimate communication: communion with nature.

5. The act of sharing, or holding in common; participation.

6. The state of things so held.

I have experienced the 'Community of Saints' and the 'Community of Sinners'. There is a commonality in knowing that everyone else is as much of a ratbag as you are. Acknowledging everyone's flaws means that I don't place any person on a pedestal. It is also easier for me to be open about my mistakes when I realize that I'm not the only sinner in the world.

There is a commonality in the 'Communion of Saints' as well. In its traditional meaning it refers to a mystical bonding between the Living and the Dead in a confirmed hope and love. But due to the Polyvalent (my word for the day) nature of the word 'Communion', it makes me think of acknowledging everyone's goodness. It means that I don't place anyone beneath me. I see the goldeness in every human being, I acknowledge that everyone bears the fingerprint of God.

'...the forgiveness of Saints' swapped with '...the forgiveness of Sinners' also produces some interesting material for reflection.

I find it very easy to call myself a 'sinner'- so much so that I tend to frequently diminish my own goodness. Wearing the name 'saint' is a lot harder. It feels like it comes with many expectations. Ascribing it to myself feels prideful and presumptuous.

Like Schrodinger's famous cat I exist in two states simultaneously. I am a Saintly Sinner and a Sinning Saint.

All this reflection from misquoting a creed, imagine how much reflection I could get from living it!

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