On this mountain

On this mountain the Lord almighty will prepare

a feast of rich food  for all peoples,

a banquet of aged wine –

the best of meats and the finest of wines.

(Isaiah 25)

Advent is my favorite season – an opportunity to retreat from the commercialism of the upcoming secular holiday, and be immersed in the rich, hope-filled imagery found in the liturgical readings. The poetry of Isaiah sends mind and heart soaring. I am happiest when I’m gathered around the table with good friends, good food, good wine, and good conversation. One of these dear friends once described these moments as a ‘touch of heaven’. Isaiah’s banquet image affirms this. The heavenly banquet sounds like great fun!

The Eucharistic Liturgy is meant to be such a banquet. We gather around the table of the Word, and the table of the Lord to acknowledge the Divine presence among us. To be nourished by that same presence. Yet, for me, it doesn’t seem like a banquet. There’s something missing. The food is there. The people are there. (Okay, not all people – we’re selective in our invitations.) The festive decorations are usually there. What’s missing? The conversation around the table! The only dialogue is in the back and forth of formulaic responses to tired prayers. The weary mumbles seldom exude the liveliness and excitement found at a good feast.

We yearn to be a Church of dialogue. This term is used in many parish and diocesan mission statements these days. We are encouraged in terms, resplendent in poetic vagueness, to be a Church of communion, where all voices are respected. But few are granted a voice at the table. Diocesan and pastoral councils are touted as a platform of dialogue. Yet many priests and bishops are quick to remind us that these councils are advisory bodies only. Final decision-making lies in the hands of the ordained. A true Church of dialogue can be added to Isaiah’s vision, to his list of yearnings for things that are not yet.

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