These ‘foxtail lilies’ have been photographed by my friend Gill Henwood in her Lakeland garden.
I have chosen them to illustrate a reflection, by my friend Julia Sheffield, which arose from a conversation we had
after morning Eucharist recently. The majestic flowers, soaring up to the sky in splendid, silent beauty point us, like a prayer, towards God.
“Lift up your hearts! We lift them to the Lord!”
So begins, with this response, the great prayer of thanksgiving central to the Eucharist.
Have you ever noticed what happens when you ‘lift your heart to the Lord’?
Notice the change of energy. Attention! Look here! Do this! LIFT your hearts!
It’s an imperative, not ‘if you please, would you mind’.
No matter where the preceding service of the word has led you or left you, these words gather everyone’s attention, and we focus together as one towards the central act of remembering and re-enactment of the Last Supper. It’s important we are all there, to witness it, and to give thanks.
And why the heart? Why not our heads or our hands? In the Hebrew scriptures the heart represents more than just an organ to pump the circulation, or the seat of eros, romantic love. The heart, in the Bible, is considered the home of the inner life, and everything that makes us human, our spirits, our character, our emotions and our will. The heart represents the whole person. So, the command to lift our hearts is a call to bring our whole selves into the presence of God – we lift ourselves to the Lord.
Lifting our hearts is not just a good intention, but an actual physical act. There is a real power in the gesture of altering our posture as we say the words, and this can be done whether we are standing, sitting or kneeling. Think where in the body the heart is placed, about halfway between the armpit and the navel on the left side of the centre of the chest. In order to lift the heart, you need to lift the head and shoulders, straighten the spine, and open out the chest. And then what happens? The lungs expand and you cannot help but draw air into your body. What a wonderful wordless prayer that is, bringing our focus on the Lord, and responding physically with a movement that draws in afresh the very breath of life.
Lift up your hearts!
We lift them to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give Him thanks and praise!
Revd Julia Sheffield
Photo : Revd Gill Henwood