My passion for the Catholic faith had been awakened. When I saw the veiled young woman dressed all in black take Communion, I was already no longer satisfied with the status quo I’d accepted for so long. I was only a person or two behind her on the opposite side of the aisle, but I was fascinated by her. The little I could see showed me she was a beautiful, dark skinned Hispanic woman, a woman who stood out in our small town, predominantly white church community, and I watched her surreptitiously as I moved closer to the altar. When it was her turn to receive Communion, she stopped and knelt in the aisle opening her mouth reverently before standing again and walking to the rear of the church.
In contrast, I patiently moved closer to taking the Host, shuffling forward in line with everyone else. When my turn came, I stood, put my hands out, left over right as I’d been taught in 2nd grade when I had made my First Holy Communion and took the wafer, pausing only a moment to make a quick Sign of the Cross before turning my back to the Cross and returning to my seat.
I had never seen the woman before and have never seen her again. I didn’t even see her in our small church before or after Communion. It was as though she only appeared for those few moments on the Communion line. She was veiled so I could not tell who she was or identify her today if she stood in front of me, but that young woman left an impact on me.
About the same time, the news media began raising questions about President Obama’s bowing to leaders of foreign dignitaries. In America, we are fortunate to bow to no one. We have no supreme leader, no king, no intimidating individual demanding we bow as he passes by, and yet, Obama bowed more than once to those foreign leaders, and the woman in the veil had bowed before the Eucharist. The contrast between Obama’s bowing and this woman’s bowing and my own resistance to bowing was another question I needed to investigate further. Obama needed to bow less, but perhaps, by not bowing, I too was bowing to the wrong things. Perhaps, I needed to bow more to that who is worth bowing to. Perhaps we all do.
Again, about the same time, I began seeing articles discussing whether it was proper to take the Eucharist in hand or whether it should be taken only by mouth. The timing of my discovery of these articles was surprising to me, but since I no longer believe in coincidence, I have to attribute these “coincidences” to God wanting me to discover more about another aspect of my faith that I took for granted.
How we take Communion, whether by hand or by mouth is an interesting debate and one I will look more into since I am no expert on the subject, but that young woman and those articles made an immediate impact on me and made me reconsider the way I take the Eucharist.
Before, I was taking Communion as though it was a communion with friends and family. I didn’t fully appreciate that this was meant to be in Communion with our Lord. I approached the altar without real in-depth thought or understanding of what I was about to do. I walked quietly along with everyone else, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give a tiny wave to a friend sitting nearby or to make faces at that adorable baby in the pew I was passing. I was unfocused. I would take the Eucharist in my hand and pop it into my mouth almost as fast as possible to get out of the way of the next person and keep the line moving quickly.
I hadn’t thought of how the seriousness of what I was doing in a long time. I hadn’t thought…
THIS IS THE BODY OF CHRIST
…I hadn’t thought about what that really means.
I hadn’t thought enough of being physically one with the Lord. I hadn’t thought of bowing before my Lord. I hadn’t thought about how I would one day need to bow before my Lord as He judged me. I hadn’t thought of how my shuffling forward, “popping the wafer” into my mouth, and moving quickly out of the way would look to my Father. I hadn’t thought about what taking the Eucharist in exactly the same way I had when I first made my Communion in 2nd grade said about how I’d matured as a Christian.
When Jesus said we should be like little children, He didn’t mean we shouldn’t grow and mature in our faith. By taking Communion the same way I had when I was eight, I hadn’t grown or matured. I began concentrating on what I was really doing as I walked toward the altar. I didn’t kneel as the young woman had, but I did begin bowing. I began realizing that I was truly bowing before my Lord each Sunday, that He is as physically with me at every Mass as He will be at Judgment. I began truly looking forward to the day I would see His face and bow before my Lord in Judgment.
Changing the way I approached the altar and bowing before taking the Eucharist was easy. Deciding whether to take the Host by hand or by mouth was more difficult. Join me Thursday for my next post which will discuss what I’ve decided or subscribe to get posts delivered straight to your email, and, as always, if you have thoughts or comments, please share them below.