Thursday, January 06, 2011

the things in my head...

I wrote in a Snippet intro a while ago about the wine at my first parish.  I do not care for red wine.  Actually, I find the stuff almost always wretched in taste.  But the wine at that parish is this amazing stuff.  Not taste.  Not by far.  But the fragrance.  Oh, the fragrance!

When I would sit in the pew awaiting my turn, that heady aroma would waft my way and I would grow distracted.  When my godmother would come back and I could smell it on her breath, I wanted to climb over the pews and demand the blood of Christ.  When Pastor would come to my house and serve me, from the moment he decanted the wine into the chalice, I could barely think of anything else.  To my dismay, his habit was to decant and prepare the Lord's Table before beginning the Divine Service. 

You know how much I love the Agnus Dei on page 198.  And I believe it is well-known, now, how much I cherish the Words of Institution...Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night He was betrayed took bread...oh, it is hard for me to think of anything else when those Words come to mind or the tune pops into my head.  There He was, about to be betrayed, ridiculed, beaten, humiliated, and murdered--all of which He knew was coming--and He took the time to give to the Church, give to me, His body and blood that we/I might have forgiveness and healing.  Staggers the mind.

But when Pastor served me at home and that wondrous miasma filled my nostrils, all bets were off.  I was focused like an arrow flying toward the target.  However, I missed so much.  That's what typing out the Snippets has taught me of late.  There are many means of grace, and I was skipping right past the blessings of absolution and the Living Word with the thoughts in my head over that wine when he came to my house.  In the Lord's House, I still missed more than I should, for the riches that abound in Lutheran hymnody oft went in one ear and out the other.

When I came to my second parish, the missing fragrance was a sorrow to me.  The strong taste that I could follow from my lips to my stomach was still there.  That sensation, one which I would not accept apart from the Eucharist, was itself this great comfort, for it was a physical reminder that I had just taken in Christ's very body and blood.

So, here I am at a third parish. 

Imagine my shock when I discovered they use white wine!  [I would love to know the why of that.]  When I saw it in the decanter (I am sure there is a proper Lutheran term for that), I couldn't believe it was to be Christ's blood.  But it isn't red, I protested mentally.

Oh, was I in for a shock at the Lord's Table!  That wine is sweet!  Sweet!  I savor the taste on my tongue long after I have taken His blood into my body.  How perfect!, I thought after getting over the shock.

How sweet are Thy words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
                                                ~Psalm 119:103

Tonight, we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany at another church.  I had trouble finding my way to the sanctuary and actually ended up coming in the front of the church just as the service was started.  Embarrassment rolled over me until I spotted the stairs to the altar.  Since I was just under the wire, I had not a chance to ask the pastor if he would serve me in the pew.  It was walking those steps for me.

Now, I do have stairs at home.  Of course, recorded here are just a few of my unexpected descents of those stairs.  However, sitting in the pews at this and my last parish have been a misery to me.  At my first parish, those folk were so accepting that I could lay down in the pew and they wouldn't blink an eyelash.  Plus, there were these helpful cushions.  However, while I savor the "high church" of my last two parishes, I just think it would be too disturbing for me to lie down.  So, I sit, grow stiffer by the moment, and swallow a great deal of pain standing for the Lord's Supper.  Adding steps to the mix strikes fear in my heart and going to the altar is more about not wanting to fall than meditating on what I am to receive.  It was a great mercy to me that my last pastor began serving me in the pew.

Anyway, I did spend far too much of the service staring at those steps since I have been exhausting myself with packing and unpacking and have rendered my right knee useless.  Even in the brace sometimes I move wrong and cry out in agony (thankfully not in public yet).  The sermon was fascinating, so at least I took in the Living Word.  But I fretted about those steps.  [Having yet another unknown liturgy did not help matters.]

Funny, it wasn't the steps that were the problem.  It was the wine!

They have a red wine.  To me, it was so bitter I nearly spat it out.  I was aghast and worked hard to keep down Christ's blood.  Though, I should say that my first pastor greatly comforted me, when I was vomiting all the time and could not keep down the Lord's body and blood, by giving assurance the efficacy if the Eucharist was intact no matter if were only in my body mere moments.  Still, this was not nausea. 

Today, something happened.  In that moment, the thing that raced through my mind was fear that the bitterness was because I was taking the Lord's Supper in judgment. 

I know such a thing is possible.  Though...I do not understand the ins and outs of it.  Abject fear passed through me and still bothers me greatly.  How can I know?

In thinking on the matter, I have wondered if the wine is a bit bitter to everyone.  It seems to me that the bitterness is as apt as sweetness for the cross was a bittersweet experience.

Still, the things in my head this night bother me.  Did I take in judgment over my part in what happened?  Am I sinning against God because I notice things like fragrance and sweetness and bitterness? 

Yesterday, in the Eucharist, I was served a portion of the large wafer that the pastor uses in the rite, raises above his head in the peace announcement (I am sure there is a proper Lutheran term for that, too).  It is all the same body of Christ, but I was taken aback as he placed it on my tongue.  I pondered over the sharp edges and slightly different taste.  As I bit down, one of those edges cut my gum and I tasted blood.  I thought of the blood He shed and immediately felt completely unworthy that He would do such a thing for me. 

Once, when my first pastor was at my house, he discovered he had no more host with him.  We searched through my larder and only found an old, leftover bun, not worth saving but somehow had been overlooked.  It was stale and unfit for consumption, especially after sitting out during the Divine Service. Only it was fit because it became the body of Christ.  At the time, I thought about how appropriate the stale taste was since Christ was deemed not worth saving by the people, who chose, instead, to save a nefarious despot instead of the pure and righteous Son of God. 

Why do I notice these things? 
Why do I think of them? 
Who does such a thing during the wonder of the Eucharist?

I searched the Confessions for answers and found the following, which only served to raise more questions,though I am fascinated by the term "visible Word":

When we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our heart must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. At the same time, by the Word and by the rite, God moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and the rite are the same. It has been well said by Augustine that a Sacrament is a visible Word, because the rite is received by the eyes and is, as it were, a picture of the Word, illustrating the same thing as the Word. The result of both is the same. [BOC, AP, XII (VII), 4-6]

Did I...this night...was the bitterness more than the wine?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

No comments: