Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Common Cup

Boy! God is smart! We have a need to join in group worship and He wants us to do it! Two weeks at home and I miss Mass.
For those of you not Catholic, our gathering, our worship, has many meanings with many layers (as does any religious service); the culmination of the act of worship during Mass is to walk into the Upper Room, to join Christ and His disciples and sit at the table of the Last Supper as part of the commmunity of saints. To this day, some will say "I'm going to Church", " I'm going to Mass", or "I'm taking the Eurcharist." All means the same thing.
When the priest holds the cup during Mass and says, "Take this - drink it all of you for this is the blood of the new and eternal covenant" (Matt 26, Mark, Acts), and with the communion wafer does the same thing, "Take this-and eat it all of you...", we believe the bread and wine is transformed into Christ's body and blood in a literal and exact sense - a spiritual event that transends this life, the place where moths and rust abide. Other christians, in a heartfelt way, do not believe this or believe it only in a symbolic way. We can differ but are always joined in God's love and grace.
Sometimes, to the great relief of those around me, I stop singing during Mass and just watch both individuals and families walk down the aisle. With one act of love they receive Christ into their bodies. At that point in time I know I am witnessing the most beautiful act I will ever see - until the next week when I will see it again.
Due to the increased threat of influenza and H1N1, the practice of sharing the cup among parishioners at communion has been stopped. We are reminded that for Catholics, Christ is present as a whole - body and blood in the consecrated wafer of bread and therefore nothing is really changed...."give us this day our daily bread." No physician in his/her right mind would advocate a practice of sharing a community cup which could promote illness, especially among the vulnerable, elderly, and young. So even though it is not my place to approve or not approve, I do support the church in its decision, knowing that church fathers sought prudence (Wis 7:7) through prayer.
ButI have a nagging feeling. I don't like it. Most likely for selfish reasons.
It doesn't happen often, but whenver I have a preliminary conversation with a non-Catholic, two things always seem to come up: Mary and Communion. It was always easy for me to explain the Eurcharist. My response was informed by Scripture, "I believe it because that's exactly what it says." I loved the directness and simplicity of the words and although I know that Christ is completely present in the communion host, the response of wine to blood, body to bread allowed me to live a little more comfortably in the Upper Room, the Word and my faith - when explaining it to someone else.
Some make the point when speaking about their church that "we are the church", I appreciate the meaning . A church is more than buildings and liturgical committees. They say the church is the community of believers and they are right. But I also would extend that sentiment. Ultimately it is God's church. He lets me sit at the table. I am a visitor. I am a guest. I am a follower. It just bothers me that when the spiritual bumps into the worldly that the spiritual is supposed to predominate. How can something as mundane as illness interfere between the relationship of God and man? (I know - Adam and Eve).
It sometimes seems that we are living in a period of diminishment. A President makes a good hearted speech about the importance of peaceful intentions in foreign policy and he wins a Nobel Peace Prize. "Downsizing" is now a common noun. Our jobs have been or may be downsized. We are told it is prudent to downsize our homes as we get older; and, shame on us, downsize our dreams. We stop trying to go for the three point shot, thinking an easy lay-up may be the safer course. But what if the lane is blocked? Better to play defense and not get scored against - that's the ticket.
But I also know this.
Louis Armstrong single-handedly introduced jazz to the world. One of his unique and wonderful musical techniques involved playing a solo "behind the beat." During a session, he would wait, let himself become out of synch with the line of rhythm. This created anticipation and appreciation for the next musical phrase. I think God plays behind the beat of His church. The Holy Spirit will course correct. If it be His will, a better Eurcharistic liturgy is in our future.
I feel better. Sorry to go on for so long on something that may not be of interest to you. I hope God gave you fast eyes. A writer, Michael Creighton I think, said that nothing had validity in his life until he wrote it down. In a pint-sized way I guess I am doing the same thing. I think through words. If this post doesn't make sense (and it may not) it could be because my mind is not 100% yet - combination of pain medication side-effects, cabin fever, and too much sleep.
Also - I do not represent myself as any type of expert on the Catholic Church What I don't know about the church could fill a football stadium between two last place teams at the end of a season. Although I grew up a Catholic, when I married I went with the Protestants, but several years ago they traded me back to the Catholics for a believer to be named later.
No expert I

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