One of the interesting experience I had during this silent retreat was the mass services that I have been attending. First, I must highlight that all the silent retreats that I have attended, four so far, were ran by Catholics. It is only because I only know of silent retreats organized by them. I don't seem to find any details about the ones ran by Reconre, and I have not encountered any other people who do them in Malaysia.
Anyway, about the Catholic mass, I recognise the sensitivity of the Catholics with regards to non-Catholics who attend mass, and I know that it is common practice that most priests do not allow non-Catholic to partake in the bread and wine. I accept that - because I do not subscribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation and therefore I am okay not taking it, which has been the case for the first two retreats.
During the third retreat, the father commented to the non-Catholics that if we would choose to receive it, we are invited to do so. He said the choice was ours. I did not and the reason was theological. I felt that if I choose to take it, then I will be subscribing to the dogma of transubstantiation because it will be given to me as such, based on the belief of the attending priest.
But during the this retreat however, things turned out very differently. During mass on the first night of the retreat, I automatically remained in my seat when the retreatants proceed to received the bread and wine. Nobody said anything, the priest was silent about it, and I let it be, as being the common practice of non-Catholics in a mass.
The next morning however, when I had my reflective session with a Catholic sister, she asked me very inquiringly, "Don't you take Holy Communion together with people in your church?"
"Of course! I do! I do not take it in a Catholic mass because..."
"Because you are sensitive to the feelings of the Catholics." she finished for me.
I just nodded. She continued saying that she has spoken to the father about it and that it was okay if I desire to join them in receiving the sacrament. I thanked her for it and left the matter at that.
But I found myself in a dilemma. I had not tell her that though one of the reasons why I did not partake with them was because I respected them, the bigger reason was because of my theological stand. Like I mentioned, I felt that if I were to take it, it would seem like I am subscribing to the doctrine of transubstantiation. But she had approached it from the perspective of the body of Christ, that we come together to partake in the holy meal as a family in the Lord.
I never felt so torn between. It felt wrong taking it and it felt wrong not taking it. As the time for mass drew closer and closer, I began to feel quite panicky. What should I do? Should I take it, or should I not take it? Or should I just not attend mass?
I started writing my thoughts down. I write for therapeutic reasons. I write to feel better, I write to still my thoughts, I write to manage and to put in place my one million and one thoughts.
And as I do so, the body of Christ begin to win over theology. But as I walked to the chapel, I was still undecided. As mass proceeded on, and as I begin to pay closer attention to the words uttered, I finally set my mind and stepped forward to partake in the holy meal together.
And that in itself is a very refreshing experience. I still do not believe or subscribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation, and it did not matter. What was special was that it has brought me to look at the Holy Communion anew. For the Methodists, we see it as the Holy Mystery of the Real Presence. Whilst it has not literally turned into the body and blood of Jesus, it is more than a symbol, more than a remembrance. It is a Means of Grace. It is a holy sacrament that brings us into the holy presence of God through his grace and mercy.
I will not partake it anymore as before, I was serious about it but yet I can't help it but to say that it was in a sense of nonchalance in comparison to how the Catholics do it.
I will now partake it with more seriousness, more awe, more wonder, and in worship to my Lord Jesus Christ.
We will have the last mass service for the retreat later today. This may be the last mass I am permitted to partake in and as such, I will savor it and savor in the special and holy presence of my Lord.
Thanks be to God.