It’s Just Clear Blood, I Promise

It’s Just Clear Blood, I Promise November 7, 2016


There was no need for Father Vasyl to apologize, let alone apologize twice. The whole thing was entirely my fault.

I usually go to the eleven AM Divine Liturgy at the Byzantine Catholic Church, and this time I was at the vigil. And he hadn’t seen me when he came into the church with the thurible– I’d arrived at church early, decided to go for a walk, taken too long and ended up running back in in the middle of the Great Litany.

It’s very difficult to give Holy Communion at the Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy in the first place. In this church, Father drops a big cube of Precious Body under the appearance of leavened white bread into the chalice, and serves everyone a well-soaked chunk of it on the end of a spoon. I am the only person in my little church who is severely sensitive to gluten. Eating bread or anything that’s been touched to bread can make me sick for days. So Father has me come up to the deacon door in the iconostasis and take a sip of Precious Blood off of the spoon before he mixes the two for the congregation.

This time, since he hadn’t seen me, he didn’t.

I stood awkwardly by the Deacon Door for several minutes before the usher ran in to tell Father I was there. Father came out with the chalice, into which he’d already dropped the bread, but the bread hadn’t had time to dissolve yet.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just clear blood,” he whispered, looking down at the ruby red oval that was Christ sitting in the little spoon. “No precious body. Just clear blood, I promise.”

I received the Blood of Christ, for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

I would have some mild stomach trouble later that week, due to the very slight cross contamination, but that wasn’t Father’s fault either.

After Liturgy, he apologized again. “I’m so sorry. It’s just that you always go to the Sunday morning liturgy, and I didn’t think. But it was clear blood, I promise. No Precious Body, just clear blood.”

There was no need for him to be so sorry, let alone sorry twice. But still, it was welcome.

I’ve already written about growing up Latin Catholic with severe scruples in a spiritually abusive Charismatic community, where I wasn’t allowed to choose my own confirmation saint or anything else. After I separated myself from my family and took refuge three hours’ drive away in the Ohio Valley, it got worse. The atmosphere of bullying and control around here is legendary. A neighbor told me that when she moved in, a representative of the local Charismatic community came to her house with a book and informed her it was the parenting book that all the Catholics in the neighborhood were required to use.

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