Monday, November 8, 2010
The question comes repeatedly, sometimes on dates and dinners, but most often on anniversaries. I know this may sound insensitive, but for a while I couldn’t understand why my wife had such a terrible memory. “Haven’t I told her this story a hundred times?” I would think to myself.
I soon realized that it was not gaps in her memory that I needed to fill in for her. She wasn’t asking because she didn’t already know. She wasn’t having memory lapses about this particular area of our journey or some type of chronic amnesia that seemed to only crop up on special days. She wanted to hear the story of our love’s genesis again. My wife wanted us, in the present moment, to bring the past forward to re-present this eternally significant moment of our story.
When we recount our story, we relive the feelings that surfaced in those cherished moments. Essentially, we bring a portion of the past to the present, and it subsequently causes us to look forward to the future of our love. Our story needs to be continually told.
The beauty of the Eucharist, or Communion, is that it does just this. This act stands as one of the most significant actions of Christian worship. It’s an action that not only crosses geographical limitations to unite us with believers across the globe, but suspends the limits of time to connect us to Christians from every generation who have partaken in this simple, glorious act.
The centrality of the Eucharist in Christian worship has been lost in much of Western Christianity. Many contemporary churches see it as more of a nuisance that clumsily hacks into their struggle for “relevance.” (When you’re entire service is geared towards those outside of the community of faith, it becomes an awkward addition to any church gathering.) But since they consider it an “ordinance,” they appease their spiritual consciences by taking part in it quarterly or yearly. Much of the significance placed on it by the early church and the majority has been abandoned, and the vast weight of the rest of historical Christianity has been lost.
When we partake of the bread and the wine, it is effectively a recounting of the story of the gospel. At its most basic level, it is a joyous retelling of the story of God’s salvation of humanity. It is an action that is inextricably linked to the ancient past in its echoes of the Jewish Passover, but even this connection does little to fully explain the heavy depth of the union of spirit and flesh that the meal declares.