Being a lay minister of the Eucharist at Mass never fails to move me and inspire me with awe. It is always a moment of grace to hand out communion to other members of the congregation. I am intensely aware of the privilege it is to be present with others at the very moment of their communion with the Lord in the form of bread.
I marvel at the individuality of every palm held out to receive the host. The colour of skin, the wrinkles or smoothness, well padded with flesh or thin, worn or fresh; old or young, graceful or deformed by arthritis – their hands silently tell the story of their life and reflect the human variety of our community of faith. They are all beautiful at that moment, as we are in God’s eyes.
If our eyes meet, there is another communion, person to person, a fleeting moment of gentleness and love. We share an understanding of a common faith in the Christ who is with us at that moment and who sustains us week to week. A smile might light up the face or a reverential nod as they move on for their own special time with their God, then out into the marketplace.
One cannot help but be moved by the richness and grace of the encounter of the human person with the Transcendent One, the sheer mystery of the Eucharist.
My favourite words in the celebration of the Mass are sometimes overlooked and often expressed quietly or silently by the priest, ‘By the mingling of this water and wine, may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.’
The enormity of the mystery that we are invited to share in the divinity of Christ, to share in his God-being is staggering. And it is repeated at every mass as the priest fills the chalice with wine and a drop of water. We are the drop of water, the drop in the ocean, that is mingled, absorbed, taken over, washed in the sacramental Blood of Christ.
Neither is the second clause less remarkable – Christ humbling himself to share in our humanity: God made man; God becoming a human baby, the most vulnerable of persons. God assumes the most approachable, lovable, needy form of humanity.
At a particularly vulnerable time in my life, as a mother with young children, threatened with income instability and my marriage teetering under the pressure, the chalice was the mainstay of my day. I would take the children to primary school and stay for daily Mass. Communion was very important but it was the sip from the chalice that provided the lasting warmth, the strength to keep going, the stamina to smile and reach out to the community. One day there was no chalice and I could not help, nor stop, the flow of tears. It was my lifeline at that time.
It is Christ himself, sharing our burden, sharing in our humanity that comes to us in the chalice, enabling us to transcend our sorrow and worries, to share for a moment in the divinity of Christ.