I recently spent several days at the Christ In the Desert Monastery in northern NM. I went there as part of a personal contemplative retreat, knowing that the routine for each day was silence, with 7 times each day for chanting with the Monks. On my last day at the Monastery, I got up early to go to Lauds, at 5:45AM. This would include 30 minutes of chanting and singing, mainly psalms, followed by the Eucharist.
The day before I had also attended Lauds, and also the Eucharist. The E was conducted by one of the leaders of the Monastery. I do not know the father's name, but he was a well groomed 50 something monk with a beautiful singing voice. The Eucharist began with singing and then the Father welcoming everyone there. On the day before he had welcomed “all the brothers”. This did not bother me in the least, as I look at myself as male and female, but one of the monks had made a point of referring to me as sister, in a welcoming way, and this made me feel very warmly accepted by him.
So on this day I was coming to the Eucharist with a certain degree of expectation. The day before I had almost left the monastery, as I was hurting from all the walking because of a bad leg. And I also did not feel centered and just felt like I needed to leave early. But when I went to pack up to leave, I felt my inner divine hold me, and say to stay. So stay I did. The night before I had spent a very sleepless night due to a neck ache, so getting out of bed in the morning had been a blessing.
As I sang and chanted with the Monks that morning I again attempted to experience the singing with my right brain, and I began to feel into the experience and feel with my heart. And what I felt that morning was that the meaning of the words receded and disappeared, and I felt that the monks were singing with a place for GOD in their hearts. “There is a place in my heart for you” they could have been singing. With this realization, I also felt my heart open, and I felt such warmth and love for all of them. We were singing in oneness, and we seemed to be in one mind and one accord.
So when the Eucharist began I was in a state of openness and love. So as the Father was giving the greeting for the Eucharist he said, “ I welcome all of you brothers...and sister. “ Yes, there were no other women in the whole church, except me. Well this took me totally by surprise as I had not in my wildest expectation had expected this nor especially wanted it, but as I sat there considering what he had done, I felt overwhelming emotion springing up. Yes, I felt his respect, but I also felt this incredible sense of humbleness. Humility gripped me in such a real way that I begin to weep quietly in my seat. In fact it might not have been so quiet, as I was weeping with humility and thankfulness.
Later, I realized that there was a good possibility that all the monks had heard about me, and that some discussion had ensued about addressing me as female. In any case, they all heard the father refer to me as sister, so all of them were very aware of the issue.
As the ceremony progressed, realizing more and more of this with my open heart gave me a deep abiding appreciation and love for the world, and in receiving the father's “sister” for me, I felt that his intention had been to bless me with it.
The priest was an especially “feeling” person, as I have been in ceremonies where the actions of the priests is fairly mechanical, and devoid of emotion. But I saw on both days where this priest was very moved by the words and saw the E as “alive”. As he took the bread I felt myself “becoming” him, as in feeling what he was feeling, identifying with him, not “dropping into him” but experiencing the E thru him.
As the father took the bread to bless it I “became” him, and felt the magnificence of the wafer being ALL people, not just Jesus (duality), and the wine being the blood of all. Hence the eucharist is a sharing of each other- the divinity in us all, not the worship of the God out there.
So when the bread (the body) was offered to all by the Father, I knew that I had to go up for a blessing. They do not allow non-catholics to participate in the Eucharist, but they do allow the Priest to “bless” those who come for it. So I was the last one to approach the rail to receive, so I put my hands down and bowed to the father to signal that I wanted a blessing. Later I would realize that many brothers were looking at the event, but for me there was just the father, and me, and the Divine. As I bowed he without hesitation pronounced the blessing, the traditional blessing, but I felt like the heavens had opened and poured out a wonderful blessing of love for me. He said over me the priestly blessing found in Numbers. I was him giving me the blessing, and I was me receiving the blessing. The oneness feeling overwhelmed me and I cried as all the brothers looked and saw my blessing and they felt the blessing in their hearts, too.