The Chalice

I grew up in a faith tradition that celebrated the Lord’s Supper every quarter, four times a year. I remember my first Communion on a Sunday night: it was passed down the aisle in an offering-esque plate—a dry-white cracker, a doll-size cup of juice. I was in second grade and had recently made a profession of faith. My parents had shown me it was important, this miniature meal. I knew it mattered.

I was told that we participated in the meal rarely because it was so valuable. I remember asking why other churches had Communion every week and we didn’t. The answer was always the same: We can appreciate it more when it’s rare. If you do it every week, it isn’t as special.

When I moved to Syracuse 10 years ago, I found a small Episcopal congregation, full of loveliness: the cheesiest worship band ever, randomly scattered gray hairs, and the sweetest prayers I’d ever heard in church. I loved the earnestness of that church’s prayers for peace, just at the time when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were beginning. I loved the dearness of voices peppering out from kneeled bodies on pews when the pastor offered space for our own added requests: a woman’s son who was struggling with addiction, a family member fighting cancer, a financial need.

And I loved weekly communion. Preparing my heart alone in a pew among people I hardly knew, walking the short aisle to the kneeling bench before the altar, bowing my head as the bread was pressed into my palm. The pastor saying my name when he reminded me that Christ’s body had been given for me. I couldn’t believe the depth of reverence, the meaning that this form of celebration had given me. I began to feel like I’d been missing something wonderful.

My friend at that church was a mother and was pregnant with her second child. Each week when she received her bread and wine, her 2-year-old and unborn baby were prayed for, her son’s head marked with the cross. It felt like what every mother longs for—that physical blessing on her child: prayer with some meat on it.

I realized that I would never be able to go back to a little Communion here and there. For me, it marked my week. I was consistently reminded that I belonged to God not because of my own merit, but because of Christ. The Communion table wouldn’t let me forget the cross.

In all my churches since, I’ve been shaped by this constant repetition: The bread offered to me, the wine given. I began to always drink from that shared cup. I stopped being a dipper. I love the symbolism too much to worry about germs. I love seeing the old lady with her walker and knowing that my lips will touch that cup as well. It’s the same reason I felt the blessing for my babies when I took the wine and bread into my pregnant body. Or now, when I ask Christ to pass himself along to my five-month-old in my milk. It’s the family of God. This is our meal.

And so, here in a new church where the liturgy is the same but the faces are unknown, where every conversation takes effort and I get tired at the thought of the work to come in building a community, I can still stand beside my husband, our children in tow, and wait for the blessing.

My husband dips his bread, always has. I understand. But there’s this thing in me that needs to gulp as much as I can out of that shared chalice. I want the family with 8 kids down the aisle and the high school kids a few rows up. I want the single women on the back row and the blue-haired ladies in front of me. I want our shared taking of this wine. I want our mouths to know Jesus together.

And I want to leave knowing I am not alone here. I’ve always been in this family with them. They have always been in this family with me.

And so I drink.

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    oh, i know this, in my soul. xo

  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    One of the beautiful thing about Methodists is that they REALLY love Communion. It’s so freeing to see children with their parents at the rail, especially as I remember being so eager to take part as a child (and was refused). As a choir member, I used to watch the whole congregation as they came to take communion. One moment in particular made a lasting memory – a dear friend bringing his wife, lost in a fog of Alzheimer’s, to kneel together. It made me cry. That act said so much to me about the vow of “in sickness and health” and the faith that even if the person she was seemed lost, that Communion could still mean something. It made me hope for my own marriage, to have that sort of love.

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston

    Oh Micha, I love this. The marking of the week — this, too, is why I go. The liturgical seaons are not only the ebb and flow of my life, but the weeks marked by this offering set the tone. There was a time when I dipped, not so very long ago, but then I was led during Lent to give up the Eucharist until Easter for some specific needs of prayer. And on Easter, when I took again, I knew it was time to no longer dip. A silly thing, in a way, but it was the time to recieve anew. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    This, THIS is the heart and center of our faith and our living experience as followers of Jesus. I have ached for weekly communion since my parents left the Methodist church over 50 years ago. I’m ordained in a denomination that most often offers it monthly. And I’m getting training in spiritual direction through a community of Benedictines where we live in community for 2 weeks each of two summers – and we celebrate communion every morning in the mass. And I LOVE, love it. I wrote about it a little bit here: http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com/2011/08/scripture-and-snapshot-only-say-word.html And I will do so again, I’m sure. I am slowly unpacking those two weeks and hope to blog about it weekly during the fall. Thank you so much for these beautiful thoughts, these beautiful words.

  • Leah Davis

    This made me cry, Micha. Love what you had to say and love the picture of the huge, diverse family of Christ coming together in this meal.

  • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

    Friends, so good to hear from all of you. It’s wonderful to get so many amens from y’all out there. I’m thankful we’re on the same journey…

  • http://www.kfsullivan.wordpress.com kim

    Love it…you so well said for me what I have long fumbled to express. thank you.

  • http://www.kfsullivan.wordpress.com kim

    Love it…you so well said for me what I have long fumbled to express. thank you.

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