I have written before how I feel a certain sense of mystery about being in worship, and how Communion transcends whatever doubts I may be feeling within my faith. There is something both humbling and inclusive in the act of Communion that I have learned to appreciate, even more so in a liturgical tradition such as the Lutheran Church.
Lately for me, though, there's been an added layer of meaning for me in regards to Communion, and that's because I've been helping serve Communion.
For decades, I've participated in Communion, first within the Presbyterian tradition, which was celebrated by staying seated in the pew, and the church elders would pass trays containing a small crouton-type of bread, and then trays filled with mini-shot-glasses of grape juice. It was a very passive form of taking communion. Within the Lutheran tradition, you would go to the altar, be served a wafer and then take a min-shot-glass of sacramental wine. Sometimes you kneel at the altar, or stand, and sometimes you take Communion by a process called Intinction, where you dip the wafer or sometimes bread into a chalice of sacramental wine.
Within this more active tradition I have grown to appreciate the sacrament of Communion on a very basic level. But it did not prepare me for the act of serving Communion, particularly in my church where we do kneel at the altar.
As I have served Communion I observe the faces of those whom I serve. Sometimes these faces are looking down at their hands, awaiting the small glass of wine. Sometimes the faces are looking up at me as I speak the words "Blood of Christ, shed for you." They are faces that I have shared coffee and donuts with between services. Faces that I've enjoyed quiet small group dinners with. But at the altar, these faces are different. Overall I'm touched by both the solemnity of what they are participating in, and the serenity of knowing that they are joining together in something that has its origins nearly 2000 years ago. Many of them whisper an "Amen" after I hand them the wine, and it is in that response that I find something that stirs deep within my soul.
I find a great deal of Holiness in these acts. Perhaps it's because I find Holiness in the simplicity of various acts of faith, be they prayer, or the gentle and restorative power of touch, or in this act of taking Communion. There is a gratitude - a humble gratitude - that I also see. It's akin to the emotions I've seen of people who have been rescued from some dire fate, and they are grateful to the ones who rescued them, reaching out to the rescuers with grateful hands and hearts.
And that's what I see in these faces as I serve Communion: a genuine gratitude for the significance of the moment, and recognition of the Gift of Grace that God so freely provides for us.
Soli Deo Gloria