by Kelly Latimore

Two years ago my friend and I sat in the back row of St. Paul’s, the church I attended while in college, when it came time to receive the Eucharist. We stood and began walking together toward the elements.

     A car had hit my friend at a very young age, which has made walking, speaking, and other motor skills difficult for him; those that walk with him are ready with hands of support. My friend and I had walked together to receive the Eucharist many times. At first we would come to the table, my friend in his wheel chair, myself by his side, and I would rip a piece of bread and hand it to him, receive a small cup and pour it into his mouth, then receive these gifts myself. However, this began to change, and my friend wanted to receive the Eucharist himself; I understood. He would walk up and with some effort rip the bread and shakily touch it to the cup, his fingers often being completely submerged. I began to simply stand with him in case of one of his occasional sways.

     We came to the bread that Sunday, and each of us took and ate and turned back down the aisle to take our seats. My friend was beside me when he suddenly disappeared. Thinking I had failed to support my friend, I quickly turned around to see his bright blue eye’s wide open just above the broad shoulders of our senior Pastor’s father; the rest of him was wrapped in the embrace of the father’s arms. 

     Our senior pastor’s father wasn’t someone I knew very well, but his presence was a powerful and silent one. He always gave the best handshakes during the passing of the peace and, as my priest and professor had said numerous times, was a symbol of strength for many even in his old age.

     The father let go, my friend and he exchanged a glance, and then both continued down the aisle, us to our seats and the father to the Eucharist. My friend turned to me and with a big smile asked slowly, “Who was that”?

      Two years later that seemingly simple embrace and my friend’s response is one of the most important moments I have been given the chance to witness. In this one moment, the juxtaposition of the visible body of Christ, the importance of the Eucharist, and Eucharistic Mission all started to become a little clearer to me.

     At the end of each Gospel, almost every encounter Jesus has with his disciples after the resurrection he eats with them. In Mark, Jesus appears before them as they are eating at a table. In Luke, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus, in true ‘companionship,’ breaks bread with his two disciples before he disappears. Right after this, as the disciples are discussing the Emmaus road appearance, Jesus appears to them.  They think Jesus is a ghost, until he asks, “Have you anything to eat?” Whereupon, he eats fish and bread as the disciples watch him in astonishment. In John’s gospel, the disciples see Jesus on the shore calling out to them. After coming to the shore, they find a charcoal fire waiting with cooking fish and bread on it for breakfast (which they eat together). I am sure the disciples cherished every single meal after these occurrences as a place where Jesus might show up. It seems so simple, so ordinary, but to whom could they go? Jesus is the bread of life

     Like the disciples in John chapter 6, I often come to the Eucharist saying, “This teaching is hard.” The Eucharist is mysterious and takes imagination. In it God is taking an ordinary people and forming them into the body of Christ with something as common as food and drink. However, in the rhythm of taking the Eucharist, we come to proclaim with Saint Peter at the end of the chapter, “To whom could we go?” Jesus is the bread of life. At some point I began to recall that when Christ asked us to remember him it was through food. In the repeated actions of “taking…blessing…breaking…and sharing” I began to see what a Christian ethic looked like. At some point “we come to understand that it takes imagination to realize that God has given us far too much rather than not enough. It takes imagination to open our hearts to receive God’s overflowing gifts, instead of assuming his gifts are hard to come by and look elsewhere.” Continually and willingly receiving the gift of Christ’s taken, blessed, broken and shared body and blood, we come to recognize that our very lives are gifts. We receive these gifts and are given the chance to offer in return every possession, every responsibility, and every relationship, our whole lives to God in the Eucharist. They become transformed: taken, blessed, broken and shared with the rest of the world as signs of God’s friendship and love. In this context, “you are what you eat” makes sense. We are becoming what we have eaten. We are becoming signs in the world—witnesses of what the Eucharist has made us.

      God has transformed us in the Eucharist by transforming the most natural, common thing: food. Thus, why shouldn’t this special food transform the way we look at everything? Why shouldn’t this meal transform everything we touch, hear and see? I’ve begun to realize that my life and the common friars, and us working on the Good Earth Farm, and the entire Church Catholic must learn to incorporate every gift, every prayer, every meal, every relationship, every responsibility— incorporate our whole world into the Eucharist—transformed by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

     We often equate Eucharistic mission with the grand and extravagant; something that merely informs our separate individual or parish missions. There isn’t an individual or parish mission. As our Bishop, Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal says, “The Eucharist is mission.”

     As we work on the Good Earth Farm, our mission isn’t to simply ensure the land’s flourishing, or, conversely, to assert dominance over it; we hope to farm in a way that “brings creation into the relationship of praise and thanksgiving toward God epitomized by the Eucharist.” We want to enter into a relationship with the land that treats it as a gift, not a commodity. Even when our harvests may be small, they are still gifts.

    It is through our habits and our practices of the liturgy that we learn how to see and remember that everything is taken, blessed, broken, and shared. It is a simple statement, but the Church cannot change the world; God changes the world, and God is changing us into the visible Body of Christ to be signs of his companionship and love. This is God’s means of changing the World. The simplest of actions can now change the world. A small collective of people living together can now change the world. Planting one seed can now change the world. Preparing and eating the food we have harvested and sharing it with friends and strangers can now change the world.

    These are gifts to be shared however insignificant they seem. My friend’s question, “Who was that?” is actually a paradoxical question (one I don’t dare attempt to completely answer in this article.) However, I do know that everything in our lives— the economies of food in our cupboards or in our gardens (big or small), our clothes, our money, our words, and our shelter— has become part of the Eucharist. Our collection of food and money for the poor is not separated from the Mission of Eucharist. Our time itself is a gift (“each day gathered as was the manna in the wilderness…”). We can’t separate any one thing in our lives. For all is Gift; everything is a sign of what the Eucharist has made us.

      My pastor’s father made an embrace a visible sign and part of Eucharistic Mission. Thus, I believe it is even the seemingly simplest of actions, like harvesting, baking bread, writing a letter, preparing and eating meals, teaching, painting, sitting with a friend in silence, trying to mud drywall, writing music, studying, doing dishes, telling a story, building bird feeders, looking after the bee hive, preparing a space for a guest, conversing, or yes, offering a strong loving embrace, that can all become significant visible signs of the repetition of the saving pattern of Christ: taking, blessing, breaking, and giving, all brought before the Altar again and again, Eucharistic meal after Eucharistic meal. 

Notes:

 1. Mark 14:22-25

2. Wells, Samuel. God’s Companions:  Reimagining Christian Ethics. Blackwell Pub., 2006

3. Marion, Jean-Luc. 1991. God Without Being.

Kelly Latimore regularly finds and and hopes to always share musical notes, words, stories, colors, ink and paper, and broken artifacts that a Wren organizes on his bedroom window.

2 Responses to “Pondering Eucharist: Simple Actions Transformed”

  1. Ruth Huston Says:

    Kelly,
    Your article reminded me again of the gift of St. Paul’s, the gift of the Eucharist,and the sacredness of the ordinary like the Wren on your window. Thank you for your investment of time, excellence and attention in its writing.
    Kyle Watson was at morning prayers on Friday. We St Paulers feel his and your absence but are thankful for your work and play in the fields of the LORD.
    Ruth Winslow Huston

    1. Mark Says:

      That Was Great Kelly,Good Work!

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