Remembering God in Communion and the Hands that Share It

I’ve noticed that I haven’t written anything particularly thoughtful on my blog since February. I’ve had plenty of thoughts going round in my head and written a few brief notes into my theological journal, but I’ve fallen out of the habit of really writing.

I’ve been thinking as well that there is too much bad news out there. The media is consumed by the need to show the bad, and very little good. But both are important. So whilst I hope to get back to writing here more regularly once again about Growing up with God, I hope to write again more regularly about Good News. I plan to write a post a week, which gives me more time during the week to think about what I want to write about.

One of the big topics of conversation recently has been what communion means. It means different things to different people that is clear, and I’ll think more deeply again about this another time. For now what I want to write about is what it means to me at the simplest level.

On the Saturday of my time in Durham over Easter, I had not planned to go for the midday Eucharist, taking the day to climb the Cathedral tower, read and walk along the river, with Eucharist the next morning, and Choral Evensong each day. But as I climbed down the tower about 15 minutes into the communion service being held at the High Altar, hearing the words of the service I found myself instantly pulled. I felt an agony that could only be met by going. The thought of my fellow brothers and sisters sharing communion and me walking away from that was agonising to me. I needed to be there with them. I needed to receive the communion and feel healed, as I do when I take it, by the presence of God with me as I remember Jesus at this precious time.

Communion is one of the most important aspects of my life as a Christian. And I can’t explain why. It feels innate. A longing. It is a connection that means so much to me.

After about 20 minutes of walking around the rest of the Cathedral, I could take the pain of not being a part of the service no longer. I asked the steward by the High Altar if I could walk through the Quire to join them. He said yes. I walked down the Quire with about 30 eyes trained on me, as the priest held up the bread and wine in the Eucharistic Prayer. When we all went up to the communion rail, I kneeled with the last few, and as the priest approached me he smiled, and something passed from his eyes to mine of acceptance and welcoming, a message of peace in this place that I in my trainers and hoodie had walked into incredibly late, as he cupped my hands in his and passed me half of his president’s wafer in a gesture of deep kindness and love, saying, “The body of Christ.” And I said, “Amen.”

I won’t forget that. As I don’t forget my first communion, kneeling on December 5th 2010 in St Annes Church, holding hands with my confirmation friends Annabelle and Sarah afterwards at a milestone in our lives.

There’s one other story I’d like to share with you. I do not believe that Jesus would turn away anyone from his table. I do not believe that Jesus would deny anyone the bread and wine from which we remember him. And so it is with joy that I remember a young boy, that enthusiastically ran to the communion rail with his father close behind him, and cupped out his hands, desperately wanting the bread. His vicar would not deny him the bread, and as he took it in his small hands he would say Amen and close his eyes for a moment of quiet as he ate it, and then smiling and exuberant, run back to his chair and sit beaming for the rest of the service. But the priest who would cover for the vicar when he was not around would not give the little boy the bread. He would place his hand on his head for a blessing and move on. And the little boy was so sad when this happened. It was tragic to see happen. But soon the situation was made better, not by the covering priest, but by the father. The father took the bread the priest had placed in his hands, broke it in two, and gave half to his young son. Together they said Amen.

How beautiful communion can be.

Song of the week:

My photos of the day can be viewed through an archive here (though not updated every day, sometimes the photos go up in batches every couple of weeks)

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1 Response to Remembering God in Communion and the Hands that Share It

  1. Simon Marsh says:

    I love the story of your being so welcomed in Durham. It would be lovely to think that the priest concerned might read this and remember. Thank you.

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