Saturday, April 08, 2006

pass the wine and crackers

i love Communion.

i've always felt that it was special and good and there is something about the ritual that's so comforting to me. we don't celebrate the sacrament every week at my church, but to have that sacrament every week, to me, is an affirming and edifying pleasure.

two stories:

when i was a girl, the women in my church jostled for the privilege to prepare the communion table. it was a simple mission-style table but when it was covered with the special, embroidered white linens, it took on mystery. the old pastor's wife (we called her Ama, because she was such a close friend to my family) would take me and my little sister after sunday school and show us how to fill the little glasses, where the bread was and which silver plate to put it on; she'd show us how to fold the linens, how to lay the white gloves.

and doing all this while the yellow light streamed in from our colored windows was special.

i grew up watching the women in the church, including my mother, dressed in white, serving the pastor (first old Jake and then my father), and wearing their dainty white gloves while my godmother obliterated some hymn from the choir. i watched the ritual and wanted to be one of those women to participate in that ceremony but i grew up and moved away before that could happen. (and now i'm a presbyterian and the process is so complicated you need a degree to navigate it.)

the most moving communion service i've experienced did not happen on a particularly special day on the church calendar. i was sitting toward the rear on the sanctuary, ready to leave quickly so that i could prepare for my duties at the following service. perhaps it was the song from the choir, an arrangement from holst's The Planets.

but it was after the whole congregation had been served, when we were reciting the 23rd psalm, that the meaning of the service sunk into me - and it felt just like that, a deep penetration. maybe it was that i knew the psalm by heart and could say it with my eyes closed or maybe it was the slow, meditative way all of us were participating but the feeling i experienced was a combination of repentance, of awe toward christ and deep community with those around me.

Feminary: Disaster!


Molly Malone said...

Thanks for sharing your memories. I love communion, too. I haven't been to church regularly in about a year and a half, and that's one of the things I miss most!

john patrick said...

A friend of mine once asked me why Catholics have communion at every mass. I was like, what? How often do you eat food at dinner? What kind of a question is that?

My grandmother was a daily communicant, my aunt gets tense when she misses a Sunday.

Why do we always have communion at mass? It's why we go. Without communion, I probably wouldn't go.

I've spent the greater part of my life struggling with the eucharist and its meaning... yet recieving it every week. It's taken years for my intellect to meet the challenge that the eucharist presents.

When I give my faith talk to a room full of teenagers, I retreat to an anti-intellectual place that must drive the protestants insane.

Do this and remember me. Do it. Not 'think about it,' not 'argue about it,' not 'explain it,' but 'do it.'

And so when they ask me about transfiguration (don't worry, they don't) I have to plead 'benefit of the doubt' and distract them with a folk song.

I don't send them to someone with more theological training, because frankly, the catachism weirds me out. I've got my money on a prophet-yet-to-be-named who'll bring us back to the essential Good News, that the Good Shepherd is looking desperately for all of us lost lambs.

ding said...

we take communion every month and i have to admit that i miss taking it every month, the way we did when i was a kid in a baptist church.

i also prefer the practice of going up to take it (lutherans and episcopalians do this.) of course, in a church so big (the 11 am service is over 500), it would take forever and so, is impractical.

they serve communion every week at our vespers service but vespers...meh.

ding said...

uh, i meant we take it every other month. geez.

ding said...

it's funny.
i ask questions about all sorts of things in the church but the eucharist isn't one of them.

for me, it's the most clear aspect of my faith. it's the event that reinforces and asserts it. it focuses my attention on why i believe and what i believe - it's my own little catechism.

of course, it helps that we protestants don't truck with any of that transubstantiation stuff...

john patrick said...

Well, my generation of Seattle Catholics thankfully didn't get the aplogistic catachism; my priest told us to try to believe eight words, "this is my body, this is my blood," and we were Catholic as long as we were trying. And let the theologists argue about what's happening, that's what they get paid for.

And that was good enough for me.

Still, I never really craved communion until 10 years ago at my friend's funeral.

A very egocentric pastor told us to bow our heads and pray while he yapped for ten minutes. There was some poorly executed piano music, about 20 minutes of comedy (the pastor called for light hearted eulogies) and then the pastor told us to bow our heads and listen to his voice for another 20 minutes. And then there was a slideshow set to "Wind Beneath My Wings."

The people all around me were weeping inconsolably, but I was pissed off. I wanted to stand, to kneel, to get in line, to go to the table, and to recieve the body of Christ.