Blessed Sacrament thoughts by Fr. Mel Smith

     "People are no less spiritual today than they were in the past, but they are a lot less religious.
A disconnect has occurred between religion and spirituality: people no longer see religionor church as the natural setting in which to explore or express their spiritual aspirations.
So they are drifting away from churches in droves.

However they are not doing so because they no longer believe in God, or because they have no spiritual hunger, but because in their experience church is neither offering a faith they can believe in, nor an existential spirituality that can excite or satisfy the deeper yearnings of the soul.

Fast forward from the first century to the twentieth, and I'm an undergraduate in London, studying theology at the University.
A North Staffs lad, first time away from home, missing my mother and my girlfriend, overwhelmed by the big city and completely confused by what I'm learning about philosophy, about the scriptures and about myself.
And God seems to have gone away and my faith is hanging on by a very thin thread!
There are two church buildings which became important to me - one in North London near the underground station that I used to get into collegeand the other near the underground station in Central London where I surfaced.
Most days I would go into one or the other, or both, sometimes, of these churches and sit at the feet of Jesus.
How? Well, the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist was reserved in those churches, and I would sit in my confusion and loneliness and just 'be'.

In the sixth chapter of St John's Gospel Jesus is remembered as having said a lot about what later came to be called the Eucharist.
He said, 'I am the Bread of Life. No-one who comes to me will ever hunger.
The Bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'
Years later, as our first sisters and brothers began to reflect and pray about all that Jesus had said and done and revealed about himself and God and life, they came up with the phrase 'The Real Presence'; it's shorthand for all that Jesus said about the Eucharist- 'This is my body, which will be given up for you'.
Put all the sayings together and it means 'This is me!'
Here, in the Eucharist, Jesus is really present under the form of a piece of flatbread and, equally, in wine; it's not a physical Presence, but it is a Real Presence.

And so, we can come to sit at the feet of Jesus - to be still, to reflect on our life, to bring our joys and sorrows, to sing a few prayer chants and hymns and to listen to the scriptures.
The liturgy at which we do this has two names and the first of these is 'Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament' -the Eucharist is placed upon the altar for a while and we sit at the feet of Jesus in the Sacrament.
The second name is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament'; and it's called this because, after a time of prayer and adoration of Jesus, the priest or deacon .. raises the Eucharist in blessing or benediction.
Jesus has lelt his followers a precious gift; he knows that we human beings need signs and symbols, physical reminder of our God.
We eat and drink together in the Eucharist, in obedience to Jesus' command and the Church's tradition; sitting at the feet of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is a beautiful and effective extension of our Table gathering.
And, once more, it's available at St Mary's; let's take advantage of such an opportunity to be with the Lord in the quietness.

Fr Mel