Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Brief Introduction to the EG in SLC

The following is an introductory pamphlet to answer some basic questions, and give a basic orientation. Please help me improve it.

A Brief Introduction to
The Holy Gnostic Eucharist
& The Ecclesia Gnostica
The Holy Gnosis of Thomas Chapel
Salt Lake City, Utah

This brief work is intended to serve as an orientation and introduction to the Gnostic Eucharist of the Ecclesia Gnostica of Salt Lake City. It is of necessity broad in scope and cursory. You are invited to stay after the service and ask any further questions you may have. You may also keep this copy. Online at: www.gnosis.org/saltlake

Experience the Mystery

The Eucharist is a mystery instituted by Christ and developed over a thousand years. It is not any one thing, nor any collection of things. A mystery cannot be defined, it can only be experienced. Our form of the Eucharist dates back to around the eleventh century as used in Western Christendom, while the contents are largely from ancient Gnostic scriptures. The Eucharist is timeless, touching upon the eternal, and each service has a particularity, both from the Sunday or Holy Day in the liturgical year, but also from the qualities of the participants. Its purpose is not to change from week to week so as to entertain, its purpose is to remain what it is, and to change us. Like a daily walk along the same route there are constant changes, and you change. It is a long slow process—like anything real. But rewarding, as only something real can be.

It is our hope that you experience the depth and richness we feel. It may be difficult to participate at first, it may be like learning a new language, or one that is so similar it may be confusing. It takes patience and listening: both to the service and the experience of it within you.

Liturgy as Poetry

In the Gnostic view liturgy is poetry, not theology. The same is true for scripture generally, including the scriptural passages that are read during the Eucharist service. The words are not statements of belief—they are not there as an end, but as a means. No belief is required to participate, and unexamined beliefs are actively discouraged in our tradition.

Visitors and Participation

The Eucharist is celebrated for the benefit of those interested in participating in a liturgical form of Gnosticism. Visitors are welcome, regardless of whether you are interested in Gnosticism or not. The only two things we ask of those attending are: that you maintain a respectful silence during the service, if you do not wish to join in the responsive readings, and that you stand briefly (if you are able to do so without difficulty) for the reading of the Gospel (you will be asked at the appropriate time). Otherwise, the level of your participation is left solely to your own discretion. Communion is open to all who wish to receive it.

The service begins with the lighting of the candles, and ends when they have been extinguished. At other times, we only ask that you be respectful of anyone wishing to use the chapel for prayer or meditation.

Entering and Leaving

We ask that you refrain from entering or leaving the chapel during the Consecration, and to do so as quietly as possible if necessary at other times. The least disruptive times being during the censings.

(All are welcome to stay, but if you feel you cannot remain for the Consecration, the appropriate time is at the end of the Hymn sung to the Holy Spirit, “Holy Spirit Heavenly Dove,” leaving quietly after the sung “amen.”)

Communion

All who wish to receive Communion may do so. Receiving communion is an individual matter, and is solely the choice of the individual. The Ecclesia Gnostica does not require that one receiving communion posses any set of beliefs or attitudes, nor does receiving communion imply the possession or adoption of any beliefs or attitudes.

Communion is usually given in both forms (wafer soaked in wine) and is placed by the priest on the communicant's tongue. Communion of one type (wafer only) may be requested. To receive Communion, open your mouth about half-way, and put your tongue forward onto your lower lip. Use your tongue to pull the Host into your mouth.

Validity of the Sacrament

The priests of the Ecclesia Gnostica are duly ordained in the traditional manner in the Apostolic Succession of universally recognized lineage. The form of the Gnostic Eucharist is that of the Eucharist used throughout Western Christendom since the eleventh century. The Cannon of the Mass (the Consecration) remains unaltered from a much earlier time.

Fear and Proselytizing

The Ecclesia Gnostica provides liturgical services as a service to those who may benefit from them. You will not be solicited to join a church. There isn't anything to join in that sense, anyway. We know that you cannot give someone else Gnosis, and that this particular path isn't for everyone. However, if you wish to avoid introducing yourself, sneak out as the candles are put out, we won't mind.

If you are interested: there is an email list for service announcements, a small group of people who socialize after most services, and other parish activities.

Reading the Eucharist Book

Not all of the words spoken will be found in the Eucharist book. So, don't feel lost when following along. There are both Pre-Eucharistic and Post-Eucharistic prayers that are found only in the Requiem Eucharist book. There are also readings that change depending on the week or Holy Day of the liturgical calendar: these are the Collect(s), Lesson, and Gospel. These readings, as well as, the liturgical calendar for the year may be found at www.gnosis.org. A brief Homily follows the body of the service, preceding the Post-Eucharistic prayer.

Responsive reading is encouraged but not required. Sections of text that begin with a “C:” or an “A:” signify those to be read aloud.

Donations

Though we do not solicit donations, we do accept them. We are currently raising funds to construct a permanent Gnostic chapel in Salt Lake. This is an enormous undertaking, however the land will not have to be purchased. Otherwise, our yearly reoccurring operating costs are a modest $450, approximately. Of which $300 is for candles alone, and the remainder for incense, wine, and wafers. The priests have previously paid all of the expenses, however, it has become more difficult to do so.

Kneeling and Crossing Yourself

Those who wish to participate more in the service, yet do not have a background with such things, may benefit from the following. They are not required.

Crossing oneself in our tradition is done in the manner of Western Christendom. With fingers together touch brow, navel, left shoulder, right shoulder (and optionally your heart). A “+” in the service book indicates times when it is appropriate to do so. This is often done in receiving a blessing, either before or during the blessing. One also crosses oneself before receiving communion, and just afterward when receiving the “Peace be with you” blessing.

Kneeling in the pews is optional. (Our other chapels do not have kneelers.) The most appropriate times are: during the Consecration, and during the Pre and Post-Eucharistic prayers. In general, if there are serving clergy in addition to the priest, one may wish to follow their example in kneeling.

It is traditional to kneel when receiving Communion. And to genuflect when entering or leaving the chapel, in addition to crossing oneself. A genuflection is a bending of the knee either so it touches the floor or moves as if to do so. This is done to acknowledge the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.

“All” are Welcome?

No state or condition of life has any bearing on the Gnostic path, nor is it a barrier to any level of participation in the Ecclesia Gnostica. We don't care about your ethnicity, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or membership or participation in any ethical spiritual or transformational organization or path. Whatever your circumstances, you have the divine spark within you, and we are all in this together. 'What' you are is of no importance next to who you are.

What is Gnosis?

Gnosis is not esoteric, hidden, secret, or occult information: nor information of any kind. It is a very deep knowing, a knowledge that you are, rather than a knowledge that you have. The path of Gnosis is a transformative path in which you slowly grow and become more of who you truly are. It is a path of liberation, and shares many parallels with Buddhism. For example: Gnosis is as likely to be found in books as Enlightenment is; and Gnosticism without Gnosis is like Buddhism without Enlightenment. See Rev. Troy's blog The Path of Gnosis (http://gnoscast.blogspot.com) for more information.

Am I a Gnostic?

The experience of a Gnostic coming to Gnosticism, is best described as recognizing/realizing that there is a term for what you are—a Gnostic. It is a deep recognition of an affinity. A home-coming. A “music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all. But you are the music—while the music lasts,” to quote T.S. Eliot.

Not everyone who benefits from our tradition, or Gnosticism in general, is a Gnostic. Gnosticism accepts our experiences, it recognizes the presence of the Divine in everyone, it is poetic and symbolic while being practical. In a world that most often misuses our spiritual impulses, Gnosticism offers a means of following them to liberation.

A key difference is that someone who is not a Gnostic, but uses material from Gnosticism, tends to get stuck on the ideas. They may use them for liberation, but only to a point. For example, the Divine experienced as feminine is a continuous part of the Gnostic tradition, but it is not the point of it. If contemporary women find this aspect of the tradition useful in overcoming the limitations of society, it has served well, but if the process of liberation stops there—it is not Gnosticism.

The Ecclesia Gnostica

The EG is the oldest publicly practicing overtly Gnostic sacramental church in North America. Centered in Los Angeles, the EG is presided over by Rt. Rev. Stephan Hoeller, noted author, lecturer, professor of religion, and senior Gnostic Bishop in the Americas; and has parishes in Seattle WA, Portland OR, Sedona AZ, and here in Salt Lake City UT. More information is available here

In addition to the Eucharist, we offer: other devotional services, the sacraments of Baptism and Chrism, and a process of formation as clergy through inner focus and outer service. (Plus the usual: sick calls, weddings, funerals, etc.) The formation process is an opportunity for growth and Gnosis, not a guarantee of either, and one should never trade one's own judgement for any kind of official “seal of approval.”

Children

Unfortunately, we have no provisions for child care. It is not recommended that you bring children who will be uncomfortable or distressed by sitting quietly; it is far more important that they get the attention and care that they need. Also, consider bringing your child to another type of service before bringing them to a Eucharist service.

Baptism

The Gnostic rite of Baptism is not intended to replace or rectify any prior baptism the candidate may have received. It is a sacrament and a Mystery to be entered into consciously and knowingly. Therefore it is not a rite intended for children, though there is a blessing service available for them.

To become a candidate for baptism it is recommended that you attend services for a period of months, familiarize yourself with Gnosticism and the Ecclesia Gnostica, and read The Gnostic Catechism by Stephan Hoeller to see if it makes sense to you (online at gnosis.org). When you feel that baptism is something that you wish to pursue, speak with a priest.

Other Clergy Services

Parish priests may be available for weddings and funerals, this is done on an individual basis. The Rev. Troy Pierce is usually available for individual conversations: informational, social, or in the form of spiritual direction (also called spiritual counseling or listening).


Lectures in SLC

The Wasatch Gnostic Society sponsors occasional lecture series by Rev. Dr. Lance Owens. Usually, one or two lecture series a year, consisting of 4 to 6 lectures. These generally occur during the Winter months, and cover topics related to Gnosticism and Depth Psychology. For lists of previous topics, audio recordings, and information on future lectures go to www.gnosis.org/wgs.htm

SLC Parish Activities

Members of the parish usually meet after services to socialize and discuss. Stay after the service for information. Non-Ecclesiastical activities in the parish go in cycles, based on season and interest level. There have been discussion groups, movie nights, and social evenings. Any, all, or none of which may be occurring at any time.

The Inner Sea Sodality

The Inner Sea Sodality is the Palm Tree Garden Sodality in the greater Salt Lake region. It is a non-denominational lay organization that provides a format for local Gnostics to meet in person as an offshoot of the Palm Tree Garden Forum at www.palmtreegarden.org. For information see the thread at the Palm Tree Garden Forum, or at www.gnosis.org/saltlake/innersea.htm

How Do I Become a Priest?

Most people who are interested “in becoming a priest,” are interested for the wrong reasons—but there are always those with a true vocation. Since the formation process is not simply an outward one, there should be no expectation of ordination to any level. The formation process consists primarily of the sacraments of Eucharist, Baptism, and Chrism (confirmation), to become a full member of the laity. Service in the sanctuary then begins in the position of Lay Server, after which there is a process of ordination through five minor orders; this work is primarily formative and personal, although service in the sanctuary is vital. There is no obligation incurred in the minor orders, however the major orders are only for those dedicated to serving as clergy within the EG. Someone who has satisfactorily completed the minor orders, and is recommended to the bishop by their pastor, may then enter major orders, beginning with the probationary order of Subdeacon, after which one may move on to serve as a Deacon, and after that, possibly, to serve as a Priest. If the formation process leads to ordination into the priesthood, it will have been a journey lasting a minimum of seven years, only to begin again.

There are no paid positions within the EG, it is very rare for donations to meet expenses, and dedicated Gnostics are few and far between (half of our parishes rarely have more than a dozen attendees to any service). It is really not a place to seek ordination without a sincere vocation, and dedication not only to the path of Gnosis, but also to serving the Divine and others in this particular form. It is not a substitute for psychological work, nor an opportunity to “be somebody,” and any delusional ideas of gaining respect or authority from wearing a collar or robe are laughable. The rewards are of the same quality and frequency of any other very difficult, if not impossible task, usually few and infrequent, but real—and while not gratifying, deeply satisfying.

4 comments:

Marsha+ said...

Troy,
This is great! I hope you don't mind if when you have it all compleate if we edit it abit to fit our needs at the EG in Seattle. Thank you for this post!
Marsha

jp said...

I agree with Marsha-- this is really incredible! Thanks, Troy.

John said...

Thank you, sincerely, for such a thorough and engaging introduction to the valuable service that you provide. It leaves me hungering for the EG having a presence in New York City. I wonder if that is at all possible without me seeking to take the lead!

PhantomDirector said...

Marsha: tell me more about the EG in Seattle! I am in Olympia/Tacoma and am a semi ret. UU Minister--with Gnostic leanings (some say I tipped over). In any event you can reach me at:
rogerkuhrt@gmail.com

Cheerfully, RK