When it comes to Communion I guess I've gotten around.
Growing up we passed a plate of square wafers and a multi-holed tray of grape juice. Once everyone had the body of Christ and the blood of Jesus, we ate and drank at the same time. I took the Lord's Supper this way starting at seven and into my 20s. A few years back, while visiting my mom, I took Communion this way again, with my daughter. Past and present collided in a memorable way.
I've had Saltine crackers and juice with the Methodists. I've had a wafer and actual wine with the Lutherans. I've had a rather dry wafer and grape juice with the non-denoms. I've had pita bread and grape juice with the Reformers. I've had homemade bread, that was still warm, with the Methodists, and a side of grape juice.
I have never taken the body of Christ and the blood of Jesus in fellowship with my Catholic brothers and sisters. It's not because I am unwilling to acknowledge our respective places in God's family. Time and again, they ask me this question,
But do you believe? These pieces we retrieve from the Tabernacle, they aren't bread and juice symbolizing Christ. They become Christ and we take him into our bodies.
You ask if I believe? To which I will respond, I don't know.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28
Is his statement literal? Is it metaphorical and we do these things symbolically in remembrance? Is it a mystery unknown to man? If believing in transubstantiation was good enough for the church for more than a thousand years, isn't it good enough for me? Am I lacking in my faith to say I don't know? I believe, with God's help? Lord, help my unbelief?
Now, to be fair, I can't take Communion with the Orthodox Church either. However, many of them offer guests a piece of the antidoron (bread blessed but not consecrated). That helps. However, I didn't realize until later I was supposed to fast the evening before and accept that morsel of bread on an empty stomach. I do try to respect the traditions when I visit so I apologize.
All I know is being excluded leaves me sad and feeling unseen. I wonder how it makes Jesus feel? I hope my life shows evidence of being a Christ-follower. I hope my mustard seed of faith is a similar size to that of a devout Catholic who is also striving to be like Jesus.
So when I visit a Catholic church, I do not take the Eucharist. Nor do I go forward for a blessing from the Priest because it always seemed like second-best. Mass still holds great meaning for me and I enjoy fellowship in other ways. When it comes time to observe the Eucharist and everyone stands, I often make my exit.
My heart, much of my writing, calls for ecumenical efforts among believers. Explore other traditions. Lay down the blanket statements about who's not doing it right that harm our Christian fellowship. Yet every time I attended Mass, I was leaving the table. I was walking away from the conversation.
God used the sage advice of some friends to bring that decision into question. The Priest is certainly an anointed leader serving God. Why not stand in line with other brothers and sisters in Christ, cross my hands in front of me and ask for his blessing instead? What if every non-Catholic believer did this every time we found ourselves in Mass? A peaceful reminder, I may not be a part of your specific tradition, but I'm a believer and I'm here.
I followed the advice of my friends when I attended my first Easter Vigil last weekend. The vigil was a Catholic attempt at being charismatic. Joyous songs, a lighter feeling throughout. I participated in the parts I knew; the new phrase after "peace be with you," the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed.
Then the time came for the Eucharist. My heart sped up and I scooted to the edge of my seat (OK, that was actually because my knees hurt badly when I put them on the kneeler without the support of my bum on the seat so I cheat). I was sitting by family friends and when it came time for our row to respond, she asked if I was going forward.
Yes, I think I'll go receive the blessing.
That's Good, she said.
In no time at all I was face to face with the Priest. I crossed my arms and bowed my head slightly.
It's not a faith you fully recognize, but I'm here. Jesus died for me too.
He looked me in the eye and blessed me. I bypassed the gentleman holding the cup and made my way back to my seat. Although there could have been a few, I didn't see any other adults who asked for a blessing. There were some children dressed in their Easter finest though. They pushed and shoved their way to the deacon standing next to the Priest. He bent down, gave them each a smile, and blessed them as well.
Lesson learned. There is much I do not know or understand about the mysteries of our faith. From now on, I'll go forward like the little children. Bless me.