On Sunday, September 2, I was the chalice bearer at Our Saviour for both the 8:30 and 11:00 services. I have been a Lay Eucharistic Minister for over a year at my home church, so being a LEM at Our Saviour was no big deal to me. What I was nervous about were the motions: bowing, genuflecting, kneeling, and the proper times and durations for all of the above. Normally, these concerns are minor since I am in the congregation; but this time, I was up front for all to see. To be sure, I made some errors but I just tried to roll with my mistakes and not let the mechanics of the service take over my worship of God.
As I served the sacrament, I began to feel extremely connected to the people I was serving. It would be hard for me, who is prone to exaggeration, to overstate how deeply numinous this moment of service was. I have administered the sacrament dozens of times, even to my friends and family, but I’ve never felt this kind of intimacy before. It was utterly humbling. Humbling because it seems beyond audacity that I should offer the sacrament, an outward and visible sign of God’s grace; but Jesus himself instituted the Eucharist, and here I was to help in its celebration. This seemed the perfect Christian paradox, the one offering the gift is brought low. I felt inextricably bound to the moment at hand and to the people with me. There was a strong sense of trust as well.
Considering our group conversation last week about how priests get fed spiritually, I thought that intimacy and humility might be one answer. The server this past Sunday was definitely served. There are myriad scriptural references for this idea of the first being last and honor being given to the one who serves. But the actual experience of humility as a gift has been inspiring, and I suspect that my personal view of the Eucharist has been changed forever.
With my experience of intimacy and humility, I happened upon an old prejudice that I’d like to explore. Formerly, I had considered traditional conceptions of liturgy, stodgy at best, and hopelessly cold and unfeeling at worst. I know now that those thoughts were wrong and unfounded. I’ve been working hard, through my parish placement, to eschew my automatic suspicion of the traditional. In fact, I’m beginning to see that what I once saw as “my liturgy” can, at times, feel too familiar, and not offer any real challenge. The parishioners at Our Saviour, on the other hand, while older and using archaic language may be among the most passionate in the diocese. Perhaps this added to my feeling of humility, the Eucharist is vividly real for these people and by extension for me. The gravity of what I was participating in dawned on me and I was virtually driven to silence.