The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series
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The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series

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by Nora Gallagher
     
 

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The sacred meal that is part of our faith does more than connect us to the holy, it connects us to each other.

"I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he did could not have been done without them."

In her inimitable style

Overview

The sacred meal that is part of our faith does more than connect us to the holy, it connects us to each other.

"I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he did could not have been done without them."

In her inimitable style of memoir and personal reflection, Nora Gallagher explores the beauty and mystery of this most fascinating of topics. Whether exploring the history of Christian communion, taking us inside the workings of a soup kitchen, or sharing times of joy and sadness with friends, she reminds us what it means to partake of, and be part of, the body of Christ.

A volume in the eight book classic series, The Ancient Practices, with a foreword by Phyllis Tickle, General Editor.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780849900921
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
11/03/2009
Pages:
143
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Sacred Meal


By Nora Gallagher

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2009 Nora Gallagher
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4185-8072-8



CHAPTER 1

SCOTCH TAPE AND BALING WIRE


The ultimate source of the Susquehanna River was a kind of meadow in which nothing happened: no cattle, no mysteriously gushing water, merely the slow accumulation of moisture from many unseen and unimportant sources, the gathering of dew, so to speak, the beginning, the unspectacular congregation of nothingness, the origin of purpose. And where the moisture stood, sharp rays of bright sunlight were reflected back until the whole area seemed golden, and hallowed, as if here life itself were beginning. This is how everything begins—the mountains, the oceans, life itself. A slow accumulation—the gathering together of meaning.

—James A. Michener, Chesapeake


When my husband and I walked into the bakery, I knew something was wrong. My friend Jodie was pushing back tears with the heel of her hand. Frank, her husband, was sitting across the table from her, somber, watchful. Are they getting a divorce? I thought. Has something happened to one of the children? I put my hand on Jodie's shoulder and sat down.

"What's wrong?"

"It's Frankie," Jodie said. "Val's daughter. You remember Val and Kirk?"

"Yes, I do." Val, an architect, a woman whose face was all kindness. Kirk, her husband, handsome, gentle, a builder. Francesca, Frankie, their younger daughter. How old was she now? Twelve? I remembered Frankie and her sister, sweet little girls in dresses, at a party years ago, too shy to talk to strangers, and Val leaning down to talk to the littler one like a mother hen covering her daughter with a wing.

"She's missing in Panama. A small plane."

The call had come the night before, Sunday.

Frankie was on vacation with a school friend, Thalia Klein, and Thalia's father, Michael Klein. Michael, age thirty-seven, had taken the two girls in a chartered Cessna that day from Islas Secas off Panama's Pacific coast, heading for the Chiriqui volcano, about 285 miles west of the capital. In rain and fog, the pilot of the plane had radioed the airport at a town named David that he could not see the runway to land and had then disappeared. Witnesses said later that they saw or heard a small plane flying too low in the jungle toward the mountains.

As soon as they got the call, Val and Kirk had asked a neighbor to drive them to the airport in Los Angeles. Kim Klein, Thalia's mother, and Robert Klein, Michael's father, had left Santa Barbara minutes before and were now also on their way south to the larger airport.

Once in Panama, the families traveled to the resort city of Boquete, as close to the airport at David as they could get. On Monday morning, Christmas Eve, an early attempt at a search had been called off because of the weather. Later that morning, another airplane tried to take off but came back because of driving rain, fog, and high winds. Several friends who were bush pilots flew down to try to assist the families.

The terrain in the interior of Panama is dense jungle, with mountains rising to thirty-five hundred feet.

Anxiety gripped me. It was a different kind of worry from anything I had felt before. It was as if I were almost feeling what Val was feeling. Almost. It was the not knowing. The feeling was intolerable. And then I felt my own feeling: helplessness. Nothing I could do from so far away. Should my husband and I get on a plane and go down to join a search party? (The heroic response, but the rational reply would be, You don't really speak Spanish, Nora, and you can't fly a plane or even read a compass. A lot of help you would be.) And then I realized that Val, too, must feel helpless. This woman who had protected her daughters at a party must be insane with helplessness.

The four of us ate our breakfasts and then stood up to leave. Jodie promised to keep in touch, and my husband and I went home. My husband's family was in town for the holiday. There were presents still to be wrapped. Chicken chili stew to be prepared for a light dinner after the early service at church. Ornaments to be put out for trimming the tree later. The weather was bad, the ceiling low, so the search planes could not take off.

No news as the day wore on.

And so at three thirty, I drove over to the hotel to pick up my mother-in-law, Peggy, and take her to church. She and I have this little routine over the holidays. We go to the early service, the "children's Christmas Eve service," because we've grown fond of watching the kids act out the Christmas story. Then we can go back to our house and settle in, trim the tree, and go to bed early. Peggy was dressed and ready; she asked me if there had been any more news and told me the story was on TV. We drove to church.

My church, Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara's downtown, is a Gothic pile of yellow sandstone, designed by the same architect who built the National Cathedral.

It was quiet as we walked up the steps and greeted the ushers. I found us a pew toward the front of the church so we'd have a good view of the pageant to come. As I settled Peggy into her seat, I looked up and saw a girl Frankie's age talking to her mother, her face that particular twelve-year-old girl combination of child and teenager, still with the childlike vulnerability and openness not yet covered over with a teenage mask, and I burst into tears. I stood there, and what had been lying under everything all day came up to the fore. I can't pray, I thought. I have so much anxiety that I can't find my way through to pray. I don't even know how to pray. What should I pray for? Who should I pray for?

Frankie, stay with the plane, I had thought earlier in the day. Was that a prayer? I stood there, crying, and then I saw Eva, our associate priest, walking across the altar area. I found myself leaving the pew and walking toward her.

"Eva," I said.

"Oh, hi," she said, in that tone that says, I've got about two minutes.

"Eva, a friend's daughter is missing in a plane, a crash probably. Will you pray for her? I don't know how." And I cried again.

"Oh, no," she said. "Oh, of course I will. And I suppose, well, I guess it's not too good a time, but I was going to ask you to help with Communion because we're missing a LEM." (A Lay Eucharist Minister helps with Communion by serving the wine.)

Something stirred in me. "I can do that," I said, and immediately regretted it. I was hardly in a state to serve the wine. I almost said, "Oh, sorry, no I can't," but she was turning away; she had a lot of work to do. I didn't see anyone in the near vicinity who could take my place. I walked back to the pew.

The choir began to sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful," and everyone stood up. The kids brought in a wood cradle and put it near the altar. Two kids, around fourteen—Mary in a pair of jeans and a blue scarf over her head and Joseph, a skinny boy with dark hair—came in and stood near it. They both looked as if, should they accidentally touch each other, they would both scream. A flock of angels, ages three to four, with gauzy wings walked up the aisle and floated around Mary and Joseph, weakly flapping their arms. They'd flap and then forget and sort of stand there; one held her thumb firmly in her mouth. Their mothers prompted them in stage whispers. "Fly, fly," one mother said, flapping her own arms. Her little girl smiled and said, "Mama!"

Then we got to the point in the service when Eva lifted up the bread and wine and said, "The gifts of God for the people of God." That was my cue, and I walked up to the altar to receive the wine and bread. Then I took a goblet of wine from one of the acolytes and started to serve.


It is always its own thing, serving the wine. Once when I served the wine, I saw the mark of lips on the cup just before I wiped it off, and I thought how the trace of our lips on the cup are the traces of human on the infinite, a fragile moment recorded, and then time moves on.

"The blood of Christ," I said to Elaine, who is ninety-five, a former dancer. "The cup of salvation." She looked at me as she received, and she placed her hand on my arm.

"The blood of Christ," I said to my mother-in-law, who held my sleeve. The tears were running down my cheeks, and there was nothing I could do about them.

And then, all of a sudden, I got it. I got what I needed to know that day.

Holy Communion was a web, a web of people who were being stitched together. And tomorrow, we would need to be stitched together again. Over and over. One person to the next. And I, today, was doing the stitching. In my weakened, anxious, weepy state, along with another chalice minister, who was working next to me, I was making basting stitches, the kind I learned in home economics from Mrs. Davis in seventh grade. Nothing fancy, nothing permanent.


A little boy dropped his bread on the floor, and his mother picked it up and without a moment's hesitation popped it into her mouth. I missed the right placement on a gray-haired woman and touched her lips with my finger, and she frowned. A guy tried to dip his own bread and got his finger in the wine, and I wanted to smack him. Here we were: the rough material.

And then it was over. I went back to the pew and sat down next to my mother-in-law. She patted my hand. I wept and wept and wept. Then we stood to sing "Silent Night" and we walked out into the chilly December air.

Just as we got back to our house, Jodie called. The rain was still falling in Panama, and visibility remained low. Val and Kirk and the Klein family had organized a search party to comb the area where the plane was last seen. A map had been drawn up, and the area had been divided into sectors. Kim Klein had offered twenty-five thousand dollars to anyone who could find the plane.

As many as fifty people set out on Tuesday morning at 4:00 a.m.

Christmas Day. We opened our stockings and gifts. The family sat around for a while, then decided to go over and visit another distant family member in town for the holidays. I declined. Suddenly, more than anything, what I needed was sleep. I lay down on the window seat in our dining room, with the kitty lying on my legs, and the two of us went out like lights. Frankie, I thought, stay with the plane.

My cell phone was ringing. Where was it?

"They found the plane," Jodie said, and she started to cry. "There is one survivor. They think it's Frankie."

I fell to my knees on my dining room floor.


A practice is something we do that is always the same and always different. In the world we live in, we do things over and over so we can get better at them—better at soccer, playing the piano, selling software, things that have measurable scorecards. But that is not what a spiritual practice is.

That Christmas afternoon, I was in great need. And I understood that Holy Communion was about stitching people together. I needed to be stitched together myself. It was not the kind of stitching that would last forever. It was more like what my father said when he did a job that was only temporary: "That's Scotch tape and baling wire, but it will do for now."

CHAPTER 2

COMMUNION IS A PRACTICE


Two months after liberation, people had stopped cheering and embracing. They had stopped giving away food and had started selling it on the black market. Those who had compromised their integrity during the Occupation, now began to calculate and plan, to watch and spy on each other, to cover their tracks.... It was becoming evident to many that while evil grows all by itself, good can be achieved only through hard struggle and maintained only through tireless effort ...

—Heda Kovaly, Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague, 1941–1968


Trinity Episcopal, my church, has two services on Sunday at which Communion is celebrated and served, one on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and one on Friday at noon. Many of the Roman Catholic churches in my town serve Communion every morning. (The Roman Catholic Church has rules against someone like me taking Communion because I am not a member; but in France, in a small village I won't name, I asked the small, round priest in my incredibly broken French if I, being not a Catholic and an American, could take Communion. I gestured to myself, and to the wider space with its old, gray walls and its ancient pews. I said, brokenly, that I was only there for a month, intimating that by the time the religious police arrived, I'd be gone. He practically winked and replied, more or less, "The farther from Rome, the less the rules count.")

Communion goes on all over the world in many churches in different languages but in much the same form. In France, I could follow it even though I was in a Roman Catholic church and the words were in, yes, French. When they served Communion, two altar boys stood on either side of the priest and held a piece of linen so white it hurt my eyes, to catch Jesus if they dropped him. In Prague, I attended a service of the Church of England where, at the exchange of the peace, the men and women held their hands out in front of them as if to barricade themselves from a possible American hug, but the Communion service was more or less the same. In Nicaragua, women and their babies practically danced to the altar to receive Communion, while a salsa band played and a German TV crew stuck a camera in my face, but we were all eating the bread and drinking the wine. In Ireland, where no slight or crime is forgotten, I asked a hotel clerk where the Church of England was, and she pointed in the general direction of north. Then she said, "But if you want to go to a real church ..."

The monks at an Episcopal monastery in the hills above Santa Barbara gathered every day at noon to celebrate Communion. (Holy Cross Monastery burned down in 2008.) I have been there with them. I know how the quiet of their chapel came over you as you walked in the door, like the relief you felt after having finished something hard. They stood in a half circle around the small altar of stone in white robes (which they'd thrown over jeans and gardening clothes and cook's aprons, with their running shoes poking out from underneath) and sang, sometimes off-key. Even when I didn't attend, I was consoled that they were there. When I thought about why, the image I had was from an old child's story—somewhere someone's grandmother may be spinning or knitting the fate of the whole world, without anyone knowing it, even the one who does it. It's the same feeling I have when someone says about some small endangered animal that it doesn't count, it has no worth. "Why should we care?" they say. And my reply is, "How do we know?" Without that animal, the natural world may start to unravel; without these monks, what we think of as the world of the spirit might begin to fray.

On those days when I have thought of giving up on church entirely, I have tried to figure out what I would do about Communion. I could not just pass my hand over some bread and wine and then drink it by myself.

And neither can a priest or minister. One Thursday evening, when our head priest, Mark Asman, was presiding at the service, he said to the four or five of us gathered there, "Would you come a little closer? I can't do this by myself, you know."

He really cannot do it alone. Communion is not Communion without two or three "gathered in my name" (Matthew 18:20). It does not rest on an individual; it is not a priest's magic act.

Communion is therefore, of necessity, a communal activity. It's unlike every other Christian practice in that sense. Communion is meant to be done together; it has to be done in community. You can pray alone and fast alone. You can even go on pilgrimage alone. But you can't take Communion alone. More than any other practice, taking Communion forces us to be with others, to stand with them in a circle or kneel at the altar rail or pass a tray of grape juice and cubes of bread. We are forced to be with strangers and people we don't like, persons of different colors and those with bad breath or breathing cheap alcohol. (I once served the cup to the last guy in line, who was dressed in rags, and he drained it dry.) It forces "them" to be with "us" and us to be with them. Communion is, more than any other practice, a humbling experience. We are stuck with each other, at that altar, for at least a few minutes.

I remember quite keenly the Sunday morning I stood up from my pew and marched toward the altar without really paying attention to who was with me in the line. I think I was imagining a new haircut or the perfect apartment in New York, my two favorite fantasies. When I got to the altar and took my place in the circle, my knuckles knocked against those of a person standing right next to me. When I glanced over, I saw a woman I was not speaking to. We both gave a little start, and I felt immediate shame. I could remember exactly why we were not talking and everything she had done to cause it; but I realized, as I stood there with about an inch of ice-cold space between us, that I had done exactly nothing to make things even the smallest bit better. Ha! the Spirit must have been saying over us. Let's see what happens now.

In a world of gated communities and single cars and large houses, it's not easy to find yourself next to someone you dislike. We used to run into everyone in the whole village just about every day—at the well, in the fields, or even asleep right next to you in a big, warm pile of bodies. I am grateful for the amount of privacy our greater wealth gives us, but it comes at a price. Every effort to make amends has to be so self-conscious, so planned, that it's almost impossible for any animal as proud as we are. It's almost easier, I saw that day, to have your nemesis foisted on you. At least, at a minimum, you'll get used to her smell.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher. Copyright © 2009 Nora Gallagher. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Nora Gallagher is the best-selling author of Changing Light, a novel that received outstanding reviews and of two memoirs,Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith and Practicing Resurrection. She is licensed to preach by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, a preacher-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Yale Divinity School. She is married to novelist and poet, Vincent Stanley.

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The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
nlforst More than 1 year ago
So I got this book a few years ago from booksneeze. I forgot about it until I got an email from them going if you haven’t reviewed a book your account will be suspended. Here I am, going to write some thoughts about this instead of a review. To start I really don’t know why I actually requested it. I think I was new to Booksneeze and I just requested the first thing that seemed interesting. But when I got it. I found it completely totally utterly was not my type at all. I have to say this was a Did not finish for me. I never not finish anything, but this was the first. I think I was more expecting to be sort of kind of factual reasonings and it was more one woman’s journey through various types of communions she’s experienced. So I’m not going to rate this because it was out of my element and I don’t it is fair to rate something I don’t normally read.
jd234512 More than 1 year ago
The Sacred Meal is a part of the 8 book "The Ancient Practices Series" from Thomas Nelson. It is also now the third one I have read in this series, and I must say that I enjoyed this more than the others(Fasting by Douglas Leblanc and The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister). This is clearly a touchy subject but the approach of this series is not to push for the right answers or argue for the proper interpretation. In The Sacred Meal, Nora Gallagher gives us a balance of the history of the Eucharist(writing herself from an Episcopalian perspective, although not limited to that)as well as some personal experiences she had in different settings. The poignancy of celebrating it in a soup kitchen is remarkable and is very telling as relates to the idea of getting our fill from Christ. This book was a quick read and would definitely be recommended for anyone looking for some different examples of celebrating Communion outside of what you're used to.
paperartist More than 1 year ago
I did however want to blog about the lates book I have read from Book Sneeze. I recieve this books at no charge to read and review. They are only sent to me for review. The latest Book I have read is the Sacred Meal. this book is a very enlightening book about the ritual aspects of Communion and the personal aspects. I don´t know about you but when I took communion in church I always thought of it as the body and blood of Christ and all that He had sacrficed for me. After reading this book I now look at Communion in a semi different way, meaning I still know it represents the body and blood of Christ but it also represents Community. Communnion mean community to bring together people from all walks of life to one place. The place where Jesus brought us all, where he gave all that He had for all of us. I have always cried at Communion as I rememeber what Christ did for me, but now I also experience joy and everlasing peace and love for those around me. This book opened my eyes to not just thik of Christ´s death but to see and bring myself to a place to humble myself to remember his life. What Christ did at Calvary is a part of his life but His love was the greatest gift he coulld give. I now recieve His love with humbleness and grace and long to share Hs love with others around me. This book is a very good read and I hope you will look for it at your local book stores and read it wth an open and willing heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
andrewsreviews777 More than 1 year ago
The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher is a book published by Thomas Nelson in 2009. The subject of the book is the taking of communion, or the Eucharist. In the book the author shares various communion experiences that she has had. She mentions the first time she saw communion served, when she served communion, and many other memorable experiences that she saw as communion. While this book was very interesting to me and did make me want to take communion again it did have several faults. First, there were several historical inaccuracies. Second, She went down many rabbit trails about the so called American empire, environmentalism, and anti-capitalism. She seemed to compare running a soup kitchen to saving and endangered animal. Third, while she was writing about an ancient Christian practice, she quoted Buddhist monks, Female Rabis, Muslim leaders, and other people who have not reason being included in a book about a Christian practice. I can hardly understand why she would talk about communion one sentence than in the next she would talk about her yoga class, a Jewish celebration she attended, the feast of Ramadan, or what a Buddhist monk said to her friend. All in all she deviated from her topic very often and i would not recommend this book to anybody. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
PhilNaessens More than 1 year ago
I received the book The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher as part of the BookSneeze blogger review program. I was not asked to give a favorable review in exchange for this book. I won't be giving this book a favorable review. Mrs. Gallagher is a very good writer and story teller. If it weren't for those two details I wouldn't have been able to finish this book. Sadly The Sacred Meal is more about experience and very little about Scripture and how it relates to the Lords table, more commonly referred to as Communion. I had hoped for better but was disappointed beyond words. The title says "sacred" it doesn't seem like the author treats Communion as a sacred event in the spiritual life of a Christian. She even contends that anyone should be able to practice Communion and claims those who prohibit non-believers from receiving communion as belonging to a "special club" (page 90). I was less than impressed. I'm very sorry but I can't recommend this book. I'll be speaking more about this book and how it relates to scripture on a future What Color is the Sky in Their World podcast.
gadfly1974 More than 1 year ago
This is the sixth book in the eight-book Ancient Practices series published by Thomas Nelson. The author shares several personal experiences surrounding her service of Communion as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. Each story unearths another level of community and connection via celebration of the Lord's Supper. Ultimately, she concludes that the practice of Holy Communion is an important window into experiencing the "ongoing incarnation" of Jesus Christ. If you are interested in learning about how you, too, can experience the Incarnation via the sacred meal, then I recommend this book. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for my unbiased review.
AbbeyWay More than 1 year ago
The Sacred Meal is an accessibly written book on the sacred practice of Christian communion. The book's author, Nora Gallagher, uses personal story to help us gaze at the wonder of the experience of the Table from many different vantage points. This is not a theological treatise of the Lord's Table nor is it meant to be. Instead we are invited to enter into the understanding of communion as a spiritual practice. Gallagher defines spiritual practice as: "A practice is something that connects us to a world much older than ourselves, something that is re-created and made new by our participation." She challenges any cerebral understanding we have and encourages us to allow the experience of coming to the Table to be a place of meeting with God and others. For those who are expecting more theology, this book will be a disappointment. For those who hold more traditional understandings of communion, this book will confront presuppositions in maybe some tender places. But for those who want to read a book that helps enlarge your practice of communion as you worship each week, this book is a good resource for you. It will help expand your thinking and possibly your ability to enter into the wonder and mystery of what Jesus invites us to as His people. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
judycevans More than 1 year ago
In her book The Sacred Meal, Nora Gallagher reflects on the Christian practice of Communion, or the Eucharist. She draws from her experiences while training to be an Episcopal priest, as well as from social historical issues. This book is part of The Ancient Practices Series, and I found myself wanting more emphasis on the ancient, Biblical aspects of Communion. I identified with and agreed with many of Gallagher's statements, but felt that the book lacked focus and a clear message. Still, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoughtful reflection on the role of Communion in the Christian walk.
MonicaD29 More than 1 year ago
So far, every book I've reviewed from The Ancient Practices series is very explanatory, and easy to understand. This one, by Nora Gallagher, explains communion in thick answers like the rest of the books, which is very nice for those who don't understand the meaning behind the subjects. That's why I've been collecting the book series so I can understand more behind the Christian faith. I grew up Christian, but never paid enough attention as a child to fully understand, so far, this series is helping alot. Its great to see these authors also putting in their own life stories about what they write about to help you understand different reactions about communion, and the Sabbath, ect.
Neebeep More than 1 year ago
The Sacred Meal The Ancient Practices Series By Nora Gallagher, Phyllis Tickle Published by Thomas Nelson The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher wasn't quite the work I had expected. Deceptively "light" in it's warm and personal presentation, it is a slim volume filled with deep insights and touching, memorable tales. Rooted in personal memoir and reflection, it takes the reader on an eye opening discovery of Communion and faith. From student protests in Czechoslovakia to the "blessed" dirt of Sanctuario in New Mexico to a Catholic church in a small French village, the story weaves a pathway through differing cultures and religious practices, while keeping the connecting thread of Communion and biblical tradition strongly in hand. Quotes from Heda Kovaly's memoir of Auschwitz survival, to the poet Rilke, as well as the author's own experiences of working in a soup kitchen are represented; and each blend to enrich and embellish the other. In one of my favorite chapters, Magic And Thanksgiving, the reader is reminded that: Eucharist in Greek can be translated "thanksgiving". Holy Communion is a way of saying thanks. It points toward abundance. Its lineage may not be so much The Last Supper with its emphasis on sacrifice and death, but more the feeding of the five thousand with its images of abundance and gratitude. Part of the Ancient Practices Series, Ms. Gallagher's touching, and most of all memorable work, has inspired me to seek out and learn from the other volumes. The Sacred Meal, is, at its heart, an affirmation of the connection of the human spirit. A reminder that each of us are God's children, and all are invited to come together to learn, take joy, and find comfort in Communion, the most sacred of meals. Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Disclosure in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
hmweasley More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a wonderful book. I would definitely recommend this for any Christian who wants to know more about the Eucharist. The author is Episcopalian, but she does a wonderful job of writing a book that any Christian can enjoy. This book really made me think about the way I view the Eucharist. There's a chapter on the history of the Eucharist, myths about the Eucharist, and more. It really was a wonderful book. I recieved this book free from the publisher through BookSneeze in exchange for a fair and honest review.
ljones More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book with some ulterior motives - communion felt like just another part of church and I wanted to know what it should feel like. Gallagher explains what reaction communion should elicit in us by showing its impact in our daily lives. She honestly discusses her own challenges, faults, and doubts, fitting them into the communion framework. It is written as a memoir that teaches, giving emotional insight to the process. Communion is a mysterious ritual, which I always believed had to do with remembrance, nothing more, but Gallagher separates communion into three main elements: the waiting, the receiving, and what comes after. As opposed to just another part of church, she says the practice of communion helps us "stay awake" in our faith and work "the muscle of our soul." (57) "The Sacred Meal" is a book you can read without having to have a concordance or dictionary close at hand, which makes it great for those who want to understand communion emotionally. Her style is accessible (again, memoir-style) and surprised me with its readability. However, the chapters are fairly free-associative; I often had to step back and try to remember how the chapter got where it was. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the emotional side of communion and what role we have to play in taking it (contrary to my thinking, it's not just 'sit and think about Jesus dying and be grateful.') It challenges, but doesn't accuse the reader of being wrong or insist that there is only one way to be Christian. I have mixed feelings about some of her theology, but there are concepts I agree with and enjoyed reading. I do not regret reading it and know that it has caused me to look at some things in a new light. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze review bloggers' program. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are mine.
mojo_turbo More than 1 year ago
Nora Gallagher is a writer who lives in Santa Barbara and she is preacher-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, and sits on the advisory board of the Yale Divinity School. Her other books include Changing Light and Practicing Ressurection. As you could probably surmise from the title, The Sacred Meal is about the Lord's table or communion. To be honest, I was excited to read this book as Communion is one of my favorite forms of worship in church. It's a time in the service when you get to take part in the service through action and eating! (what could be more fun that that?) There is just something eternally sacred about staring into a tiny cup of juice and believing it is the representation of Christ's blood. Communion is very internal. It's something that we all do together as a collected body, but I think most would agree it's not a "shared experience." Communion is personal, it's private. If I ever look around at other people, it's mostly made up of people like me - people staring into their cups, others with eyes closed, some praying, some crying. So I think from an editor like Phyllis Tickle, I wasn't expecting a book that discusses the history and grand boredom of all that communion encompasses. As someone who administers communion, rather than is an "expert" at it; Nora Gallagher rather approaches this writing in the only she can and that's by sharing her experiences and feelings concerning it. One of my favorite quotes that shows this personal tale is on page 64. "As I served (communion) Sunday after Sunday, I stopped being so terrified, but I often felt I was in the middle of a collision between the divine and the human. As I grew more used to it, I began to step out of the way. Like a pane of glass, I was the translucent medium through which light passed." Jesus taught through the art of story, he wasn't "plain" and direct in his speech and I suppose some could critique Gallagher for trying to teach her readers the same way. Rather than explain communion she dives into a conversation with you and invites you to see the practice though her eyes. Because let's face it, Communion is mysterious. On the one hand it's a stale cracker that sits in a cupboard for a month behind the church stage, coupled with a tiny drop of welches grapejucie. But ask anyone who has shared in this ancient practice and they will tell you. it's deeply spiritual, it's wholly wonderful, it's beautiful, it's meaningful and it's available to us all. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants something more than a pastor's library book or a seminary textbook. I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling and the sacred practice of the shared testimony. Take and drink
hawkpierce More than 1 year ago
The body brutally broken for us. The blood mercifully shed for us. This is the heart of Christianity. This is what communion is about. This book is about the author's personal insight and experiences with communion. It is supposed to answer your questions about the Sacred Meal. The majority of this book is filled with personal experiences "about communion", though almost all of them have nothing to do with communion. Some may be good Christian testimonies, but I don't think they belong in a book about "communion". Further, it scarcely speaks of the first communion, the Last Supper, and slightly more often (though not nearly enough) does it speak of Jesus. There are many things I disagree with in this book; most are flat-out, hands-down false teachings when placed next to the Bible. Here's a few examples of the poisonous doctrines mixed throughout the text: TSM: Communion is all about community. P.6,11-13 MR(My Refute): Recall what Jesus said, Luke 22:19 "...This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Remembrance of JESUS, not the community. TSM: When Jesus turned water to wine at the wedding feast, the wine was "hidden" in the water; Jesus found and restored it. P. 65-66 MR: Really now? Is Dr.Pepper hidden inside a coconut? No. Jesus made (Greek - ginomai: to come into existence) the water into wine. TSM: Nora speaks about how she "accidentally" ended up participating in an Islamic dance/prayer ritual and how amazing it was. P. 98-100 MR: The God of the Bible is not the some of that of the Quar'an. Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me." TSM: We make Jesus into our personal savior; but he was half that, half political activist. P.111 MR: I don't know about you, but Jesus is my personal savior Couldn't he have been that and also against political corruption? Against corruption doesn't make him less a savior. I am all novel lover and I still love movies. I'm not half and half. TSM: When we die, we become part of the earth, the birds, the trees, just like Jesus. P.134-137 MR: I was very disturbed by this choice morsel. While this theology may look dazzling in 3D and bring millions to the box office (Avatar), it is not in line with the Bible. 2Corinthians 5:8 ".we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." TSM: And finally, "We are all the ongoing incarnation." P.137 MR: No refute even necessary. Zero stars. I strongly recommend you DO NOT read this book!
rtwins More than 1 year ago
As one who throughly enjoys history and is always blessed partaking in the ordinance of Communion, I was excited to read The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher. As a follower of Christ, I turn to Scripture, and the words of Jesus for explanation of the reason and method of this remembrance of His death for our sins found in I Corinthians 11:23-34. I quickly discovered that Nora Gallagher does not believe as I do. I found a few nuggets of truth, but the Gospel message, Christ's life, and death were just made.common. I thought it might be best to just quote from this book to explain my opinion. On the last night of his life, Jesus said, "Do this to remember me" (Luke 22:19 NLT) Many of us think these words, these last Supper words, mean that we're remembering Jesus when we drink of this cup and eat of this bread. (I sure did.) Well, of course we're remembering Jesus, but that should not be all we're doing. I don't think Jesus was interested in everyone just remembering him. What's the point of that? That puts Jesus in the category with the various celebrities who will do anything to get into the media so we'll remember they're still alive. Instead, I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together, What they had made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them. ~ pg. 23-24 (Anything God wants to accomplish, He can do, with or without us. ) Throughout this book, the author weaves The Lord's Supper, or Communion with feasts of other religions as common forms of fellowship. What Christians call fellowship, as in covered dish suppers, she also likens to Communion. This is contrary to I Corinthians 11:34, where Paul admonished those partaking to eat at home. On page 88, the author states, "Communion is so important to me that I don't think there should be rules about who can take it and who cannot." On page 90, "If you make up a bunch of rules about who gets to take Communion and who doesn't, then Communion is reduced either to a special club with only certain kinds of people who are allowed in, or magic. " Throughout this book, the Gospel of Jesus is watered down and void of true repentance. The Lord's Supper, Communion, a sacred meal, has been reduced to a common meal.
pupsbabygirl More than 1 year ago
Holy Communion was a web, a web of people being stitched together. And tomorrow, we would need to be stitched together again. Communion is not Communion without two or three "gathered in my name" (Matthew 18:20) The sacred meal is a book that discuss about communion practice in today world, what is the meaning of the communion and its significant in today church. This book also explore the history and practice of communion from early Christian till now. It force us to think what actually communion? Many of us simply get into a routine and didn't give much thought about it. As for my personal experience, i still remember vividly i got into a fight with my cousin because i think communion is pagan like tradition. I don't understand the significance of it. My cousin also get irritated at me because I am not someone who easily satisfied with an answer. This book definitely help me understand better. Now, i don't think it is pagan origin and its simply a tradition in a church. ( I am not someone who love to follow tradition, I am mostly a rebel and i need reason to believe) This book definitely humbled me and answered my question. Below is the quote from the book that i love. Communion is therefore, of necessity, a communal activity. It's unlike every other Christian practice in that sense. Communion is meant to be done together; it has to be done in community. You can pray alone and fast alone. You can even go on pilgrimage alone. But you can't take Communion alone. More than any other practice, taking Communion forces us to be with others, to stand with them in a circle or kneel at the altar rail or pass a tray of grape juice and cubes of bread. We are forced to be with strangers and people we don't like, persons of different colors and those with bad breath or breathing cheap alcohol. (I once served the cup to the last guy in line, who was dressed in rags, and he drained it dry.) It forces "them" to be with "us" and us to be with them. Communion is, more than any other practice, a humbling experience. We are stuck with each other, at that altar, for at least a few minutes. The writer use easy language to write. It is easily understandable. It is not only about communion but its also about being a Christian. Its relate communion and real life as a Christian beautifully. How we relate the waiting, receiving and partaking of the life of Christian ? Have we given it a thought? Its a beautifully written in 11 chapter and very interesting book. If you feel communion tradition is only a tradition, you got to read this book. Overall i give this book 5 of 5 star. This book is gratefully received from Thomas Nelson Publisher as part of their booksneeze blogger program. i am not required to write positive review and therefore, the review is 100% opinion of my own.
JamesNahrgang More than 1 year ago
Before reading my review, people should note that I have a particular bias. I am a seminary student who is from the reformed tradition of theology. In my seminary research papers I intentionally try to research and cite various people that span the theological spectrum. This shaped my preconceived expectations for Nora Gallagher's book, The Sacred Meal. Nora Gallagher is licensed to preach in the Episcopal church and was hired by Thomas Nelson to write the book on Communion for the "The Ancient Practices Series." The Sacred Meal is a collection of life stories from Gallagher's life in relation to the Christian practice of communion. Gallagher is a good story teller, and this is the essence of her book. The way she tells stories is more than merely hearing a story and relating, but she cues people into the small, seemingly unrelated, details of each story which allows for the reader to know her story on more of an experiential rather than strictly mental level. With the positive stated, I must admit, it was a very difficult to continue reading. Sense Gallagher is from the Episcopalian tradition, I would love to hear her perspective on The Sacred Meal, what, why, and how do Episcopalians celebrate it, and maybe even give a scriptural and doctrinal apologetic for it. Most books will do this and intertwine life stories in the process. The way Gallagher wrote the book felt like I was only getting the stories, and thus only getting half the book. During my education there have been several times when I forgot about a paper being due. I then pulled an all-nighter to finish the paper on time by filling it with a lot of rambling and life stories to make up for the lack of research done on the subject. This is what the book felt like. Early in the book, Nora actually says that she was surprised that Thomas Nelson asked her to write on The Sacred Meal because she knew little of the subject. When I read this, I assumed that she was moving me through a process of her discovery, but she moved through a process of life stories and memories associated with The Sacred Meal. If you like short stories, then you may like this book. I even enjoyed reading some of her stories, but as I mentioned earlier, I felt like I was missing half the book. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Drumreader More than 1 year ago
"The Sacred Meal" is Nora Gallagher's contribution to the "Ancient Practices Series" by Thomas Nelson. Having only read Nora's book and the overview book "Finding Our Way Again" by Brian McLaren, I can't comment on how the book fits in to the whole of the 6 book series, however, on its own merits, "The Sacred Meal" is a great read and a book I would recommend to anyone studying the Eucharist, or Communion, depending on your language of choice. I draw the distinction between terms or labels because one of the things I loved about Nora's book was that she did not- she chose not to make issue over the particulars of language, technique, or exactly what happens to the bread and wine under the cloth as the Priest blesses it. Rather, Nora details her experience with Communion- with it, in it, it in her. Nora makes the case for seeing participating in Communion as a practice- a staple in the (literal) diet of the Believer. Broadly, she then breaks her experience into 3 pieces- "Waiting"- the preparation for and anticipation of the Eucharist, "Receiving"- the act itself and the physical and spiritual implications for taking in the body of Christ, and "Afterward"- realizing a full life as a member of the Body of Christ, the very life of Christ binding us to Himself, each other and His mission for His Kingdom. One section that particularly resonated with me was in the chapter on "Waiting." Nora drew distinctions between the empire of this world and the present Kingdom of God- a theme central to Jesus' own teaching. She states, "The regular practice of Communion is meant to help move us from being citizens of the empire to the citizens of Heaven.And so, a practice, among other things, is the art of noticing: .It's almost imperceptible, but when I do remember to look, to shift my gaze from the mall to the Kingdom, I feel as if I have discovered an antidote to poison. And what do I see when I see the Kingdom of Heaven? .I see God's beautiful and extraordinary creation. I see people who live with restraint. I see poets and painters, unsung and unpaid, who bring me a dose of freedom and beauty. " Amen to that. While Christ comes to each of us as individuals, it is exactly that type of writing that made me enjoy the book and those types of experiences that make me look forward to my next encounter with Him at His table.
Cheria More than 1 year ago
When I received my copy of The Sacred Meal in the mail I couldn't wait to get started reading it. After all, I have always held a deep reverence for the Communion service and I was hoping this book would give me a more thorough understanding of the historical context of the Last Supper and why we Christians honor it by taking Communion. In the end, I was a bit disappointed. The author is an engaging writer, and she tells the story of why she personally enjoys taking Communion extremely well. While that topic does indeed make for an interesting and entertaining read, it is a far cry from what the reader is led to expect when deciding whether to purchase the book or not. I opened The Sacred Meal expecting to find plenty of Biblical references and commentary on the Last Supper, but what I found instead was how the Communion service seems like an evening at the country club for the author. There is plenty of talk about the "togetherness" one feels when taking part in the service, but precious little substance about the history and meaning of the service itself. This review is in no way meant to be a slam against Mrs. Gallagher personally. In fact, I believe her intentions were good when she sat down to write the book. And as stated before, it is indeed interesting and rather entertaining. But for it's implied purpose, it really misses the mark in my opinion. My recommendation: If you're looking for a good read filled with insight into one person's love for the Communion service, this book will certainly fit the bill. But if you're desiring a thorough discussion on the historical and Biblical significance of The Lord's Supper, you'll be better served by looking elsewhere.
BudeVanDyke More than 1 year ago
The Sacred Meal, by Nora Gallagher. I remember when chicken tasted like chicken. It has been so long that I can barely remember the taste, but I miss it. In the same way, I miss books about faith that are truly books about faith. Usually, books billed as being about faith are really books about belief overly seasoned with worn out words and phrases that conjure memories I have of litmus tests and classes of Christians. Through that wall of earned (for the most part) cynicism, I reluctantly dared to engage the pages of Nora Gallagher's The Sacred Meal. What Nora presents is a refreshing alternative to platitudes and words that have no edge. Instead, she breaks apart the objective religionism with fixed dogmatic beliefs that so many of us have grown to detest by granting us entry into the personal dialogue she experiences in the sacraments. (A sacrament is the outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual grace). She mixes history with her story and how her story and history engage with the other faithful (but not so faithful) informs her own faith experience. As a person whose faith type is clearly ontological sacramental (experiencing the Holy through symbols and rituals), she gives a perfectly valid and balanced description of the sacrament of the Eucharist. She understands and articulates practice of communion in the context originally instituted, as the last of many meals Jesus had with his disciples. Then she calls us to practice this meal with the gathered Body of Christ that is the very members, seen and unseen, of the Church. What Nora has done in the book for the sacred meal of communion is to free it from the bondage of being an objective institution that it was never intended to be. Like religion in its original meaning, the practice of Eucharist is supposed to be a verb, "giving thanks". The Eucharist is a "doing" in which the Incarnation of God is reenacted and celebrated as history, as the very present, and as the hope for the promised age to come. I would recommend this book as one that promotes a healthy dialogue of the internal and external aspects of faith. Her approach is blended, symbolic, and subjective. like the sacrament she successfully portrays. The Rev. Dr. Bude VanDyke, Chaplain St Andrew's-Sewanee School
HappyJG More than 1 year ago
Just finished Nora Gallagher's The Sacred Meal. I have friends who LOVE it; so, I plan on stepping carefully. As backstory, I should say that I am a huge fan of communion. My love affair with it started about five years ago when I read F. Lagard Smith's Radical Restoration and then John Mark Hicks's Come to the Table. I'm big on the Sunday meal being a shared celebration, on it's anticipating the Heavenly feast to come, on Christ's presence being manifested in our community. (I do not like the heads down, individual way we traditionally observe it.) Anyway, I love meditating on the Lord's Supper because it is meaning-packed. You can talk about it for hours and never say the same thing. Because Gallagher's such a great writer, I looked forward to her insights. And some of them were excellent. I love this: "Holy Communion was a web, a web of people who were being stitched together. And tomorrow we would need to be stitched together again." I like this, too: "It forces 'them' to be with 'us' and us to be with them." And this: "We need concrete things that tie the ordinary to the extraordinary, like long lines that tether a hot air balloon to the ground, to bring the kingdom of heaven near to us. The hope is that these rituals will not diminish the holy nor make it mundane but are set aside to keep it close." So many times, I read a sentence, reread it, and circled it. Beautiful. The problem with beautiful writing is that sometimes it can make untrue things sound true. That's my biggest beef with this book. Sometimes I think Gallagher's theology is bad. She mixes "amen" sentences (phrases oft-repeated and guaranteed to get an emotional, positive reaction) with sketchy, ill-supported thoughts of her own. So that her reader doesn't notice the not-so-true stuff because he's busy amen-ing. I think that's deceptive, and it makes me feel uncomfortable. For example, in the chapter called "Soup Kitchen" Gallagher talks about what Jesus came to do. She says this, paraphrasing Shelby Spong (bear with the long quote): "Did Jesus come to give us religion, to give us the right way to worship? No. Well then, did Jesus come to teach us how to follow the law, be righteous, be ethical? No. Did Jesus come to teach us the truth, the one truth against which all other claims can be measured, all heresies decried? To give us orthodoxy? No. Jesus came to give us life, and life abundant. Here's the bottom line: if Jesus didn't come to teach us a system of beliefs, the one true path, or the right way to worship, then what did he come to teach us? Perhaps he came to teach us how to live." Okay, so there are some things in the above paragraph I agree with and LOTS that I don't. But did you notice how Gallagher coaxed you into thinking you agreed with her? That bothers me. It bothers me, too, that in talking about how Jesus came to bring us life, Gallagher could completely ignore truths that are in the very same Bible verse she's citing. Jesus says, "I am the truth, the way, and the life. No man comes to the Father except by me." Does that sound like "the one true path" to you? It does to me. So, while Gallagher is a great writer and a creative thinker, she's not very tied to Biblical truth-and I think she might actually own up to that if asked. I'm not saying you shouldn't read her. I'm just saying the reading can be tricky. Take the gems leave the junk.
SpeedMuser More than 1 year ago
This book was not what I expected it to be. When I received this book, I thought it would perhaps be a book about the process of taking communion, whether it be of my faith or others. I was actually very excited to read the book so that I may further understand the process of communion within another faith should it cover another faith. Instead, this book is regarding communion as a metaphor for life, both past and present. The author speaks about her life experiences and relates that to taking communion, and how perhaps that process was played out in times of old. While the book was not what I expected, there were portions that were great to read. However, I felt as if some aspects of her political views bled in to a few of the chapters, which I found to be slightly off topic. It was not enough to make me put the book down, but it was a "bump in the road," as it were. Overall, if you are looking for an interesting book that will couple lifes (mis)adventures with the practice of communion (regardless of your faith), this is the book for you. It is a fairly quick read, and flows nicely. However, if you are looking for a book regarding the actual practice of communion and the liturgy along with it, this really is not the book for you. I would recommend it for folks of the former statement, but not the latter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Sacred Meal is one of the eight books in the Ancient Practices series from Thomas Nelson. When I received this book, I thought it would be a book that focused heavily upon the theology and deep meaning of the Last Supper. I was sadly disappointed to find that it was not. Instead I found the book to be more of a series of reflections on communion. The author, Nora Gallagher has served communion in the Episcopalian church where she attends countless times. She uses these experiences to point readers to the togetherness of communion. On page 24 she takes the words of Christ's "Do this in remembrance of me..." and adds more to them. "Remember me, remember who you were with." She sees the Lord's supper as inspired by the meals our Lord had with others, rather then the symbolism of his redemption. She holds the viewpoint that no one should be restricted from taking communion. I cannot say that I agree with her, as I have always seen communion as something for believers in Christ. She tries to prove that because Christ accepted everyone with asking if they believed in him that everyone should be allowed to partake in the Lord's Supper. (page 92) I feel that is out of context. This is an example of one of the points in this book where the words and actions of Christ are taken out of context. I was very disappointed with the theological inconsistencies I found in the book. On page 62, she tries to assert that Jesus changed his mind and was actually changed by his encounters with the people who he healed. That claim starts to chip away at Christ's divinity. That isn't an isolated incident. I found many instances through-out the book. On page 136 of the book, she writes that Christ is everywhere and gives examples. I can see what she was going for but the way it is written comes across very pantheistic. The words of Nora Gallagher felt very conflicted. While she used examples and words that minimized Christ's divinity, she always tried to connect it back to his divinity. But it did not work for her. The two do not fit. Christ's divinity is either true or it is not. You cannot have both examples. As a reader, I feel the book is very much lacking. The symbolism of the Lord's supper was almost completely missing. I would have loved to see this book outlined with how it connects to the Old Testament and how this was showing the covenant between God and man fulfilled. I did not find that in this book and think it was sorely missed. The chapters were organized strangely as well. I wasn't too fond of the order the chapters were arranged in. The history of communion was not until chapter nine. Four chapters after she went into the ritual chapters of communion. I definitely recommend you skip this book. If you are disappointed because of the low rating I gave this book let me say this: I did not give it a low rating because I disagreed with the theology (though, I did). I gave it a low rating because the writing was choppy and the author, Nora Gallagher often contradicted herself. Stars: 2 out of 5 Disclaimer: I received this book from Thomas Nelson for free via their Book Review Bloggers program.
4896 More than 1 year ago
"The Sacred Meal" by Nora Gallagher is part of "The Ancient Practices Series" which is a series of eight book. The book is interesting, and keeps you on turning the pages without even noticing it. The book describes communion and the time before it, which is the 'Waiting', then 'Receiving', and lastly the 'Afterward'. But then, I felt kind of disappointed with the book too. She told some stories that really had no connection to the book at all, but they were interesting. I really have a hard time as to what I should say about this book. There were without a doubt excellent parts, then there were some that left you wanting more, or asking 'what did that have to do with anything?'. But over all I think I would recommend this book.