I am an overthinker. I place a lot of value (often too much) in meaning and logic and reason. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you, at least not if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. I overthink things ALL the time. Just ask my kids or my husband – they’ll tell you how it often drives them crazy when, for example, I complain that I “just don’t get what Lady Gaga is singing about – those lines don’t make ANY SENSE!”

While I was preparing to introduce the Lord’s Supper last week, I did what I always do – I looked for the meaning behind Jesus’ simple act of sharing the bread and wine. I wanted it to make sense so that I could better explain it to those who would receive it.

Somewhere in the middle of all that contemplation, I started reading “Beauty”, by John O’Donohue. Flipping through it, my eye landed on a simple phrase… “the sensuous is sacred”.  In other words, my senses connect me to God.

He wasn’t talking specifically about the Lord’s Supper, but suddenly I had an “a-ha” moment. A picture flashed into my mind of Jesus sitting in that room, looking out over his friends and followers while they shared a hearty meal. Something somebody said (Thomas, perhaps?) made him pause and realize that if he was going to get through to the overthinkers in the room, he needed to do something different – something a little shocking.

“Okay,” he said. “… time to stop thinking so hard. Time to stop trying to figure it all out and just let your senses connect you to the sacred.” And then he broke the bread in his hand. “Taste this bread. Feel the texture of it on your tongue. Smell this wine. Let it flow over your taste buds. It is from the earth and the earth is my body… it is GOOD! It is sensuous, nourishing and so very tasty and beautiful! Savour it with me. Don’t waste it, don’t squander it, but enjoy the way your senses respond to it and the way it feeds you.”

That changed the Lord’s Supper for me. I didn’t have to “get it”. I didn’t even have to make sense of the whole Easter story – the death, resurrection, and assumption. I just had to pause for a moment, taste, smell, touch – and let my senses guide me to God.

This year, my Lenten practice will be just that – letting my senses guide me to God. For 40 days, I will be mindful of how my senses interact with the world and how that is sacred and spiritual. I will taste the wine that is currently on the bedside table beside me, I will smell the freshly baked bread when I walk past the bakery in the morning, I will feel the smoothness and moisture of the lotion as it soaks into my dry skin, I will look more deeply into the rich colours of the sunset, and I will listen to the subtle sounds of music as it moves my soul. I will try to do all these things more mindfully and I will savour them because of the way they connect me with my Creator and all that (s)he has created. (Together with Christine, I will approach it more as 40 days of delight, rather than 40 days of sacrifice.)

As I do so, I will keep John O’Donohue’s Blessing for the Senses close by to guide and inspire me…

For the Senses

May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.

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