It’s the first week of the academic year and with it brings two welcome cookouts for UC Christian Grads, a prayer gathering, meetings with ministry partners, and continued planning. For the first time in several months I’ll be immersed in interactions with students and faculty nearly every day. I’m looking forward to each appointment on my calendar – along with the ones not scheduled. Even as I’m eager to step into this work, I’m also leery. In this chaotic mess of activity I can often lose myself and the purpose of all this activity. Then at the end of the semester I look back and wonder what happened. But that’s not the way I want to begin the year – flailing around for a solid landing place that never appears. No, I want to step out from a firm foundation.
So, before I drive across the bridge over the Ohio River into Cincinnati, I stop at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.
Opening the solid, wooden doors I am surrounded by a quiet comfort. The firmness of the stone, the height of the vaulted ceilings, the diffused light through the stained glass, the muffled sound of the traffic, and the light scent of incense and candles invites me to rest even in the midst of work. This is a place of refuge in which my thoughts turn to God instead of my calendar.
Slowly I walk in front of the altar, across the marble floors to the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. Sliding into the back pew I sit and close my eyes to rest in this space and allow it to speak to me. Opening my eyes I gaze at the jeweled-toned stained glass before me: an image of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. God met them in that place abundantly and in ways they never imagined – manna raining down, water gushing out, and God’s presence in the light and cloud surrounding the tabernacle. The desperation of the people was heard and met.
But the story told on the walls in this small chapel doesn’t end here. On the side walls murals by Frank Duveneck portray Jesus – sacrificing himself on the cross as the bread of life and breaking bread three days later with two disciples in Emmaus. In these images we see how God himself became the bread to feed us, in a fuller and more lasting way than with manna.
Sitting here I am able to focus again on the truth that Jesus is our living bread, our true source of nourishment. Since I’m prone to want to feed myself, I need to hear these words over and over. I need to stop kneading the dough of my life to death and, instead, hold out my hands to the living bread.
The readings from the past Sunday undergird these musings:
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. – John 6:35
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8
I sit and feed on these words and images until it’s time to leave. Then, I take a last look around and walk through the nave noticing the banks of candles lit by previous visitors. Others who have taken refuge and encountered the bread of life in this space. I don’t know how the others left – in hope or despair.
As for me, this place as helped me remember that solid foundation that undergirds all this activity. And not just remember, but rest in the foundation of Christ. Walking out of the doors, I now see the food I’m purchasing for the cookout tonight as not one more task to finish, but part of a larger story of following Jesus and inviting others to come along.
Let the feast begin!