25.1.14

That's the incarnation for you!

A reflection written on the third day of pilgrimage. 

Looking about me rather than up to the heavens

Somehow there is no time to escape the fleshiness of myself or my fellow companions. We yawn. We tire. We need water. We sleep well. We do not sleep well. In my dawn walk to the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the smells of yesterday are not the smells of today, until one sudden burst of spices. Behind that corrugated metal front someone is setting up for early morning trading. 

I find myself in a queue and before I know it, I am inside a small cavernous interior with a monk, two fellow curates and Polish Catholics numbering twelve. Three priests can be seen from the shoulders down inside a a smaller cavernous part into which I can see through a small arch. They must enter and exit bowing. I must not enter at all! 

As I follow the shape of this act of worship to the best of my limited ability, I thank God for my Polish parents-in-law and my Polish husband and my two half Polish children. I try to replace that slight sting of spiritual Catholic rejection with feelings of joy and peace. I raise my hand: I will take Holy Communion. But then I wrestle as I queue. Is this just my sense of obligation raising its head again? And just before I lunge forward to receive a broken shard of Jesus, a cavern companion stops me and I take a deep inhalation of breath and a little fizz of shock travels up from my diaphragm. "They've counted!" she whispers. I don't understand and I think that she has just said, "It does not count," until I work out that that can't be right. She saw them count the people and never saw me raise my hand too, to be included in the number. I work all this out in just a second or two, just the time of one deep breath. I whisper my return and smile. Breathe grace, I say inwardly. It's okay - God answered my wrestling queue questions. "It's enough ... the way we meet, you and me, it's enough for you." 

Flesh has intervened, this time forbidding.  

Mid-morning, after a breakfast of Apricots and mushrooms - well, why not? - everything is confused here, I have received communion in the Franciscan church of Emmaus and I have found God there in the prayers and the singing; in the breaking of the bread. I am told that it is in meeting one another that Christ is revealed. Back on the coach a moment of 'real' and fleshiness presents itself again as someone becoming a friend, with whom I had previously found it hard to connect, because he is so funny and I am so not, asks if I might hold down his T-shirt, taut and straight at the hem, while he removes his jumper to spare us all the exposure of his stomach he chuckles in explanation. And this we jest might just be another liturgical moment and I think about how - that's the incarnation for you! I share a smile with God, who, in his tenderness, is teaching me so much.

When another companion with whom I shared waves of the Holy Spirit, tells me before we part that 'it was good to meet you,' when really, we have known one another for a good while now, there is a weightiness to these words and I begin to realise that the incarnation is something that I really shouldn't try so hard to escape. In the fatigue, the irritations, the interruptions, the lack of hushed voices, the sweat and the jokes, the exposure of flesh... there God meets us. 

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