Communion, rarely do you hear this word around Quakers. These words from the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, Faith & Practice put it succinctly; "The absence from Friends' worship of the outward observance of the sacraments is due to emphasis on the reality of inward experience...With full appreciation of the help which has come through the outward forms to countless generations of Christians, Friends symbolize by their very lack of symbols the essentially inward nature of the sacraments."

With full appreciation, I wonder? Although Quakers have given up the outward forms of this ritual, have we also given up the spirit of it? I was raised a Catholic and I was taught that the focus of the Catholic Mass is the sacrament of communion, or The Lord's Supper. The consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and the sharing of this Host by the congregation in order to refresh the Spirit within.

If we believe that we embody , in some measure, the Spirit, that of God within, is communion in the consciousness of the Meeting? To see the spark of the Creator in the created when we gather to worship and be refreshed.

Possibly you commune with the Spirit in other ways, at other times. To quote Faith & Practice again; "an affirmation of the sacramental nature of the whole of life when it is under the leading of the Spirit".

For me it is the nature of created things. A philosopher asked Saint Anthony: ” Father , how can you be enthusiastic when the comfort of books has been taken away from you?” And Anthony replied: ” My book, O philosopher , is the nature of created things, and whenever I want to read the word of God, it is right in front of me.”

To me God is in the nature of created things and in painting nature I am trying to capture a glimpse of the Spirit.

This painting, Leaving Townshend, is a morning view of the West River valley in Townshend, Vermont.

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Comment by Patrice Wassmann on 8th mo. 26, 2014 at 4:14pm

That is a beautiful painting and at first I thought it was route 116 in Bristol Vermont! I live just up the road in Lincoln, VT. For me the observance of Communion in the elements is very important because of an experience with God that I had during a Communion service. I can understand the Quaker approach to the sacrements, but for myself I still need them.

Comment by William F Rushby on 8th mo. 26, 2014 at 7:00pm

Hello, Patrice!

The scene does look like what one would see going north from Bristol toward the turn up the mountain toward South Starksboro.

I agree with Roger Jasaitis that unprogrammed Friends have probably mostly lost the sense of communion with God, with or without physical emblems of communion.

I have known seasons of worship, usually among Conservative Friends, when the experience of the presence of Christ was quite vivid.  I remember one time when Phoebe Hall, of the Stillwater Meeting, came to Chestnut Ridge with her father and stepmother.  Phoebe knelt in prayer during the meeting, and it seemed as if Heaven came down and touched us as a fellowship as she supplicated.  I didn't know it at the time, but she had terminal cancer and didn't live long after that.

So I have known heavenly communion sometimes in meeting, but would not claim that Friends have a complete and fully adequate alternative to outward ordinances.

Bill Rushby

Comment by Roger Vincent Jasaitis on 8th mo. 27, 2014 at 10:04am

Friends, I have been in Bristol and agree to the similarity of the landscape. For more info on this painting go here

Further reflection on this theme has led me to think about why the early Friends gave up outward forms to begin with. Now we need to keep in mind that the rejection of outward symbols can become a symbol in itself as a tradition among some Friends. The important thing is to remain true to the Spirit and follow, even if it means embracing symbolism for a discerned purpose. 

Comment by Patrice Wassmann on 8th mo. 28, 2014 at 7:13am

"The important thing is to remain true to the Spirit and follow, even if it means embracing symbolism for a discerned purpose. "

Well said!


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