Struggle as Sacrament

The Appalachian Trail in Maine.

“Since once again, Lord – though this time not in the forests of the Aisle but in the steppes of Asia – I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.”

The Opening Paragraph of “The Mass on the World” by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

This past week I have been looking for more structure to my week, perhaps you as well. I have a few timers set on my phone that remind me to pray at different intervals throughout the day, but I felt as though I needed something pre-written. Fortunately, I remembered that I have The Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. It is a modern-age, daily liturgy produced by Red Letter Christians.

So I pulled it from the shelf and opened it to today, to March 29th.

As I read through it, part way through it had a famous quotation from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and it was the opening lines of a Mass (Church Service) he wrote for himself. The most beautiful part of me, is the last line…

“I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.”

The labors and sufferings of the world are being offered back to God as sacraments.

Brilliant.

Especially at a time such as this, when there is much labor and much suffering.

Offerings are often seen as monetary, or impressive. They are often understood as the best fruits of the harvest, and have something to do with value. However, here, what is being offered are two of the most inescapable parts of life that can be summed up in one word: struggle.

Struggle is sacramental, however, most of us understand struggle as a curse. But there are some struggles in life that should be seen as gifts given back to God, especially struggles that were born out of legitimate, unconditional love and a desire to see goodness, beauty or truth come to fuller bloom.

I have no idea who I write this for. Often, I wonder if anyone even cares if I have something to say. What place is there for depth of spirit in a world that seems to have no time, no ears, or eyes for the Christ Project in the world. Or, perhaps I am writing for myself and my own spiritual formation. To teach ME that to struggle is sacred, that to labor and suffer for the sake of tomorrow being a better world is absolutely worth it.

At a time such as this, when doctors, physicians, medical personnel, and other essential positions continue, where bread and wine are not readily available, how lovely is it that we might offer out labors and our sufferings upon the altar that is the earth? God is not so small as to be confined to just our sacred buildings, and we already know God desires mercy more than sacrifice. I confess the mystery that I believe God looks favorably upon our sacraments of labor and suffering in the pursuit of making the world into what it could be.

May we learn to see the world as an altar, and our efforts as offerings back to God.

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1 Comment

  1. john, excellent thoughts on struggle as sacrament……we can all celebrate communion this Sunday in this way…..jfk

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