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Making a Mystery of a Real Presence.


Making a Mystery of a Real Presence.

The Institution of the Eucharist must have seemed one of the simplest and least complicated of Jesus’ instructions to his Apostles.

At the Passover meal there would have been:

Zeroah, the leg bone of a lamb, a reminder of the sacrificial lamb on the night of the Passover.

Charoseth, sweet rich mixture of fruit and nuts, a reminder of the building of the pyramids as slaves, being like mortar.

A hard-boiled egg whose exact significance is now disputed.

Mar’or bitter herb conveying the bitterness of slavery

Karpas, greens which represent the springtime.

A bowl of salt water symbolising the tears of slaves and slavery.

Matzos, unleavened bread, underlining the haste of the flight from Egypt.

Symbol after Symbol.

At the Passover meal four cups of wine were drunk, each with a special significance, as were the ritual libations, spilling wine onto a symbolic broken plate.  That last evening which Jesus spent with his Apostles was saturated in symbolism, each designed to bring alive an aspect of the greatest Jewish miracle of all, God’s liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

So what is utterly surprising to me is how the Catholic Church got hung up on denying that Jesus’ instructions to take and eat the bread and to drink the wine were not intended in the same spirit as the rest of the Passover symbols.  Jesus even says, “Do this in memory of me.”  Just as the whole Passover celebration is about remembering being freed from slavery.

Today, we understand the power of “symbols” much better.  We don’t need “sight, touch and taste” to be deceived for the words, “This is my Body” to have a full impact.  We know that symbols work powerfully on the subconscious.  The “Real Presence” road is bumpy and for today’s educated young, largely full of potholes. It is redundant and should no longer be a stumbling block for Christian Unity.

Perhaps, too, we might be freed by loosening our grip on Eucharistic doctrine which is a bit of a sacred cow for us Catholics. We might be freed to go from a Celebration of the Eucharist, the great celebration in communion and community of God’s Love really present among us, out of the church and into the streets, rejoicing to meet Christ himself in the poor, the bereaved, the meek, the wife or husband, the addict: indeed in other people.  That, after all, is where Jesus said he would be really present. And, as we know in our hearts, in our own selves.

Priestesses: a Door of Opportunity

Priestesses: a door of Opportunity

A priestess is quite distinct form a woman priest.
A priestess is quite distinct form a woman priest.

How on heaven or earth did we invent women priests?

Pope Francis is quite clear on this: there will be no women priests in The Roman Catholic Church.   For Christian denominations who don’t have priests, but who have ministers or pastors, there is no problem: either term can refer to a man or a woman.  “Priest”, however, is gender-specific and can only refer to a man.

Women who are priests are actually priestesses and that, as the tarot card above should remind us, is a very different role indeed. Women have Wisdom in a way that men do not, they are fountains of nourishment in a way that men are not and love pours from women by their very nature in a way that in men it does not.  The priestess embodies the feminine nature in all her richness.  Women are a total mystery to men until they  discover the feminine within themseves: which some never do, especially if they live their entire adult lives in a society of men.


A woman dressed as a priest
A woman dressed as a priest.

That door is closed.

Pope Francis, six months into his Papacy, said,  “With regards to the ordination of women, the church has spoken and says no. Pope John Paul [II] said so with a formula that was definitive. That door is closed.”  There is, however, no reason whatsoever that new doors might not open which recognise the priestly role of women.  One of these is suggested by Cynthea Bourgeault when she writes, “ It is through his anointing at the hands of Mary Magdalene that Jesus is sent forth to his death, sealed in the fragrance of love. And it is this same fragrance–borne in the same anointing oils, by the same set of loving hands–that awaits him in the garden on the morning of the Resurrection.

mary magdalene

It is by amazing sleight of hand that the Catholic Church usurped the two sacraments of annointing from the priestly role of women: the annointing of the sick and confirmation.  Indeed it is this sacrament of confirmation which, above all, should be in the hands of women, being the sacrament of coming of age, or releasing and being released from childhood.

Let us open new doors: bring back the Priestess.

I feel that women, especially those who value their own special gifts as women, should be arguing the case for priestesses not women priests and exploring all the possibilities of a thoroughly feminine role as leaders of Christian communities.  Perhaps we need another good look at the sacraments to bring them back to the people as real parts of their lives, as real nourishment and fountains of motherly, as well as fatherly, love.  As for us men, we need to let new doors be opened and create new spaces.  As it is at present, women who are priests are just taking the places men once occupied; including, I expect, in the next few years that of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This, to me, makes God’s Kingdom seem very small and limited. There is plenty of space for proper Priestesses with all their mystery and wisdom and insights.

La Dama de Baza,  Iberian statue of a priestess.
La Dama de Baza, Iberian statue of a priestess.



a blog post to accompany this:

Letting God be God (2). God as subject.

Letting God be God (2). God as subject.

Love in all its manifestations.
Love in all its manifestations.

 Love in all its manifestations.  

God loves.

We know this.

I love.  I know this.

God is beyond knowing but we know Him/Her in this loving.

I know God when I love for He/She and I are One in loving.

We are One in Loving.

The subject of Love is God: God Loves.  In us God does His/Her loving.


Loving with all our being.

Directed, empty, open to Love.
Directed, empty, open to Love.                                 photo credit


“I Pray that my whole being be directed to God, so that He may be the God of compassion and love to me and through me.”

This is a prayer which Gerald W Hughes S.J. has used as an entry into meditative prayer.

Directed, Open, Empty, Waiting………………….

Letting God Love through me……….

Letting God be God of Love…….

Letting God be the God of compassion…..

Letting God be God in me…

Letting God be God.

Letting God be I, in me.

God is subject.

God as subject: Love.
God as subject: Love.

Lord, that You may live in me so that I may live in You.

And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….And You..And You…And You…And You…And You….And You….And You….

as Love,          as subject,              as Us.

Deaf, blind and numb Christianity.

Deaf, blind and numb Christianity.


One hundred years ago the Great War began and Europe lost a generation of young men in a cause which few of us now can understand.

Today, in Europe, young people travel to Warsaw or Belgrade to mingle with other Europeans who delight in the diversity,  the local foods and ales, ancient festivals and genuine friendship which each nation state offers.  They are not interested in past ideological differences but relish the nourishment offered by such inter-communion between nations once at war.

October 17th, 2013.

On this day, in his homily,  Pope Francis spoke very clearly about ideology.  It came as a shock to many Christians, especially many Catholics and those who have turned to catholicism for its “guaranteed truth”.

He said, “The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances the Church of the people..”*

The call to prayer.

Pope Francis always balances his comments with a constantly repeated call to prayer.  In the same homily he asks,

“But why is it that a Christian can become like this? `[ ideological and moralistic] Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”*

Prayer opens our hearts

Starting a pilgramage of prayer.
Starting a pilgramage of prayer.

On a pilgrimage I have all day to pray and what everyone who prays a lot says is that prayer opens our hearts and God speaks to us in silence.  That is also my own experience and, in this silence, all ideology, all anger and dispute, all inner resentment or fear is slowly worn away.  Walking long distances helps me in this: the constant repetition of motions seems to bring into sharp focus just how wonderful it is to be in God’s hands,  There is a point when everything falls away, all anxieties, pre-occupations and fears and I begin to see differently, my heart opens and all there is, is Love.

Blind, Deaf and numb Christianity.

Love is the most powerful source of energy and the greatest symbol Christians have for Love, for our God, is in the breaking of the bread, in our shared communion.  So while walking it has kept coming back to me how important it is to let nothing come in the way of  the last command and great desire of Jesus just before his execution that we “do this in memory of me.”

Communion is the corner stone which we have made into a stumbling block.  It is by visiting each other and sharing the Lord’s meal with each other, in our diverse ways, that we will come close together in His Love.  This is the means he has given us.

I pray that Christians can be naïve enough to start sharing communion without being tripped up by sectarian laws and inter-church biggotry or the disapproval of their priests or bishops or pastors.  If secular Europe can achieve peace surely Christians, too, can remove their frontiers, which, in prayer, are seen to be nothing more than lines drawn temporarily in the sand. Ideologies which may once have served a purpose become no more than interesting junk or the flotsam and jetsam washed ashore by the waves.

Interesting doctrinal remnants washed up on the shore.
Interesting doctrinal remnants washed up on the shore.

*Text from page
of the Vatican Radio website

Richard Rohr – Jesus most ignored statement.

Richard Rohr –  Jesus’  offensive and shocking teaching.


I’ve just begun to read “Wild man to Wise man” by Richard Rohr, the Fransiscan priest.  For us in the Rich “North” of the planet it does strike me as scandalous that we can have ignored Jesus’ teaching on wealth so comprehensively.  He was writing pre-Pope Francis.  There are signs that, at last, we may be listening to the gospel.
Here is the quote from ch5 “Wild man to Wise man”  – On Men’s Liberation:




“No wonder Jesus made what is his most ignored statement, and is certainly one of the most offensive and shocking: ‘It is harder for a rich man to know what I am talking about, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.’  Why don’t popes and priests ever make infallible and doctrinal statements about that?  Maybe because we are rich men ourselves, enjoying too much the fruits of the system that we are supposed to call into question.”