The Rev. Dr. Han van den Blink
St. Paul’s Church, Troy
Lord, I love the house in which you dwell
and the place where your glory abides.
When I was asked in 1985 to teach pastoral care courses at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, which was at that time in partnership with Bexley Hall Seminary, I began attending Episcopal worship services regularly. On a number of occasions I found myself moved to tears during the celebration of the Eucharist. This reaction was quite unexpected and somewhat unsettling but it gradually made me aware of something deep within me being touched and addressed.
What moved me so, I came to see, is the power of the Eucharist to convey Presence, hope, a sense of belonging and community, and the hallowing of the common stuff of everyday life, to name what was first stirred in me. What struck me most of all is that, although spoken language is employed, the essence of what occurs in the Eucharist initially appears to communicate itself non-verbally and sacramentally.
In other words, I experienced that a sacramental rite like the Eucharist is able to convey in a non-verbal, metaphorical way the reality of the hopeful and renewing presence of God in our midst in a more profound way than verbal proclamation or persuasion can. I was converted by the Holy Eucharist and it was the Eucharist that led to my sense of being called to the priesthood.
My experience with different cultures and languages has left me with an appreciation of the persisting difficulty of communicating across cultures and languages. Anyone who has ever acted as an interpreter between people who do not speak each other’s language knows what I am talking about. Not surprisingly, I have developed an enduring distrust of the adequacy of words, written or verbal.