The cup goes to the garden

lsupper

On Thursday night at All Saints’, St Andrews we celebrated The Solemn Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper.

This service on Maundy Thursday is the Eucharist of the Eucharist, the Mass of the Mass. We remember the origin of the Eucharist: Jesus’s last supper with his disciples before he retired to the Garden of Olives and was handed over to the Romans by Judas Iscariot.

Maundy Thursday always reminds me of someone I knew during my curacy at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness. His name was Cathal and he was a member of the L’Arche community in Inverness.

Every Sunday after the service Cathal would process solemnly up the aisle to the west door, holding his prayer book above his head as though carrying the gospel, where he would look you in the eye and would say quite sincerely “the cup goes to the garden. The cup goes to the garden.”

“That’s right, Cathal,” I’d say, to reassure him that I’d understood what he was saying, “the cup goes to the garden”.

And it was about this service, the Solemn Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper, to which he was referring. Because after the Eucharist the priest, deacon and sub-deacon take consecrated bread and wine to the “altar of repose” (which is an altar usually in a side chapel decorated with flowers) to remind us of Jesus moving from the Last Supper to the Garden of Olives.

It showed to me how important the liturgy is. It showed me how these dramatic, choreographed parts of the service can speak to people at different levels and to people of different abilities. It showed to me how liturgy is more than just the words, and that by acting something out it can go deeper than just understanding it with the mind.

(It’s taken me three days to finish this blog post… off now to the Easter Vigil where I’m singing the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation.)

Finding community at All Saints

High altar at All Saints, St Andrews
The high altar at All Saints, St Andrews (Photo from All Saints’ website)

This evening, after work, I presided at the 18:00 Eucharist at All Saints, St Andrews. It was a quiet, reflective service at the end of, for me, a pretty tough day.  It was, in the words of the Compline service, “a quiet night and a perfect end”.

Six of us gathered around the high altar, used the 1982 Scottish Liturgy, remembered David, King of Scots (1153) whose feast day it is today in the Scottish calendar, and prayed for the world, the sick and the church. A simple said communion service.

Formation of community

All Saints holds a special place in my heart, and in my formation as a priest, because it was the first place that I really experienced community, other than that of a whole congregation.

Between my first and fourth years at the University of St Andrews (probably sometime between 1990-1993) I would say Evening Prayer in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament with three friends and colleagues at St Mary’s College: David Campbell, Clive Case and the late Simon Gould.

We used the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book which for me was a good discipline: an introduction to using an unfamiliar liturgy.  Some evenings we used incense, most evenings not. Fr Brian Hardy, the (church not university) Rector at the time, joined us when he could.

I very much enjoyed our community of four.  I look back with great fondness on those years and both the discipline that it instilled in me, and the structure that it gave my day.

Returning to community

Leaving full-time parish ministry in 2006 was both one of the hardest and easiest decisions of my life.  On one hand it was easy because there was much in that way of life that I found painful and uncomfortable, on the other it was difficult because so much of my identity and security was wrapped up in that role.  (Letting go of that and learning to trust God more was an important step.)  The decision to leave took me about two years to make. There were many tears on that journey.

What I did miss most over the next four years, however, was feeling that I belonged to a particular Christian community.

Starting in 2006 and extending through to early 2010, I covered services at Newport-on-Tay quite a bit.  They were a lovely congregation to worship amongst and I found that time to be in many ways a healing time for me.  But when they got a permanent priest I took a few months out to decide what to do.

It was actually my involvement in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Provincial Youth Network summer camp at Glenalmond College in August that inspired me to start attending All Saints again.  And Fr Jonathan who’d been offering me an altar to celebrate before for the last couple of years once again invited me to get involved… and here I am.  Six services in and already I feel like I belong. Thank you saintly people of All Saints.