“While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. — Mark 14:22-24
When I reflect on the Eucharist, dozens of special memories bubble up. When I was nineteen and discovering community for the first time, my friend Barbara knelt beside me at the communion rail one Sunday morning. After she had received the wine, she put her palm against my back as I drank. When I think of that moment I can still feel the light, warm touch, a gesture of simple caring and companionship, solidarity in the holy mystery of being the Body of Christ.
We used to wear those little black beanies on our heads when we sang in the choir. We affixed them to our hair with bobbie pins, and they would have stayed in place through gale force winds. I remember my friend Maggie, who was the organist and choir director, lowering her long frame to kneel beside me, a pensive smile on her face. The little beanie floated on her explosion of dark hair like a leaf in the rapids.
Then there was the Folk Mass in the corn field outside Madison, Wisconsin. The sun bled down the sky and pooled along the horizon as we swayed in our bell bottoms and sang to the music of the guitars. Our voices were drowned by the cawing of the crows.
And there was another Mass, many years later, where all the lay people wore stoles and the bread was San Francisco sourdough ripped apart by many hands. There was jubilation and power, and a holy presence like a wind.
When my friend Ann celebrated her first communion at her ordination, I could not keep from weeping as she placed the bread into my hands. She was manifesting outwardly who she had always been, and it was a triumph and a blessing to us all.
On the other hand, for a couple of years I attended a church where I had a real problem with the priest. But I still worshipped every Sunday there and received communion from him. The mystery of the sacrament overshadowed everything else, and I acquired a certain mettle that makes me tenacious in the service of that in which I believe.
I have been nourished by hundreds of Eucharists. Deep down, where I don’t usually notice it, they have fed my soul in a steady, sustaining way. Sometimes they are so rich my heart longs to prostrate itself before the altar in sheer awe and adoration. At other times I practically keel over with boredom. But each celebration is a mysterious source of life and strength, and I cannot explain why that is and how it happens.
All I know is that without this ritual I am diminished. Without it I am not as well nourished, not as steady and strong of soul. It is my mainstay in a very basic way, and I hope all future generations know it as I have. Pray God it will be so.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado