Monday, December 30, 2013

Of you my heart has spoken

What gift did Jesus get this morning?
Of you my heart has spoken: 
“Seek his face.” 
Psalm 27

I'm in the midst of reading To the Field of Stars, Kevin Codd's memoir of walking to Compostela.  It reminds me a bit of Paul Mariani's Thirty Days: On Retreat with St. Ignatius, a well-fermented mix of the mundane — what's for dinner, how to fix a blister — and the spiritual.   To be a pilgrim is to be reminded that the sacred does not subsist only inside the box, whether its inside the Churches or inside of particular times, but we walk on sacred ground all of the time.

I cantored Christmas Eve mass, singing the psalm in two-part harmony with The Boy.  The liturgy was gorgeous, the music flowed forth from hearts and souls, from choir and congregation.  The homily was inviting, but challenging, warm without being saccharine or overdone - can we let God come to love us? Communion came. "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof..." I prayed, then launched into the incipit for the communion hymn.  I was ready for Christ to come in the midst of this sacred and well wrought liturgy, anxious to receive.

The communion hymn ended just as the last communicant received, perfectly timed.  I looked down, turned the page in the cantor's book to the closing hymn, and when I looked up, it was to see the Eucharistic ministers sweep past on their way to the tabernacle.  All but one.  A cup bearer with an empty cup stood waiting.  We looked at each other and both headed to the tabernacle.  In my attempts to maintain decorum and to avoid tripping over the sopranos, I reached the altar steps just as they turned the key and left.  There would be no Eucharist for me, it seemed.

I felt like one of the shepherds, too young, too short, too old, too out of breath to keep up with the rest, who arrives at the stable only to see the last sparkle as the angels rise like incense up to heaven, and the midwife swings the door to the stable firmly shut on the finally sleeping babe and his parents, shooing sheep, shepherds, and cats before her.

At the ambo, after receiving Communion!
Mass ended with a resounding Joy to the World, people swirled around wishing each other Merry Christmas, the church slowly emptied and the musicians began rearranging for the morning's liturgies.  Suddenly the woman who had waited appeared.  Would I like to receive?  Yes, please.  (Yes, I know it's not technically permitted.)

We walked to the tabernacle and as she turned to open it, another of the Eucharistic ministers appeared, fussy and apologetic for having forgotten the cantor. The door to the tabernacle was stuck, both sacristans appeared, suddenly it seemed there was a multitude there with us on the altar.  This was not how I wanted to be disposed as I received, in the middle of a huddle, with three or four people talking to me at once!

The USCCB reminds us that the communion procession is a reminder of our status as pilgrims.  Pilgrims walk in sacred time, along hallowed paths - complete with blisters, noisy trucks, overtalkative companions and well laid plans that quickly fall by the side.  I walked that night to encounter God incarnate, to meet Him in the midst of a noisy crowd, held out to me by someone who saw my hunger, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ under my feet.


  1. We receive Jesus in so many different ways and circumstances but Jesus is there for us to receive. My sacrifice every Christmas Eve is that I go to church with my family who are not Catholic and there is no Communion. Jesus is there and I receive him in the way in which he comes in the midst of the hubbub of the children's service. It is not the way in which I would choose to worship but I am grateful that Jesus is there for all who wish to receive him. Thanks for sharing your experience of longing for Jesus as well.

    1. Lynda, I agree it's good to know how much we hunger, and to be able to recognize Christ coming even in spaces outside our comfort zone (to steal Fran's image from her Holy Family reflection). You make me think of the shepherd who stayed behind to take care of the sheep, while all the rest went to see the angels up close. You can see it all and hear it, but from a different perspective...Merry Christmas!