The Blood of Christ

It’s exhausting. It lasts no more than fifteen minutes, but afterwards I sit down exhausted.

They come forward to the First with begging hands, extended for the meal, crossed for the touch. Those who ask, receive; food or touch, none are denied. From there, they proceed to the Second.

At the First, there just the one exchange, no confusion – The body of Christ, the bread of Heaven. I am Second. I stand pensively, careful not to spill. I pass to them and they pass back; I wipe and twist. I try took look each in the eye, speaking to them personally, unlike the response tree at your local customer service center.

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

I’ve heard some people say, The blood of Christ, shed for you, but it doesn’t have the right meter. It fits better when the first says, The body of Christ, broken for you, but since this is rarely said, it’s a moot point.

The Blood of Christ, the tears of Heaven.

That sounds

So poetic

So romantic

So religious

But I’m still not convinced of Heaven, not in the colloquial sense. When your boy returns from his coma Heaven, I’m more than skeptical. Not because I have abandoned the hope of Christ or because I doubt the earnestness of your conviction, but because I am fairly certain that this Heaven is not Christ’s. It is because I have a greater hope than ethereal, gaseous soul-consciousness peacefully resigned and dissolved into frozen water droplets and lethargically strummed harp tones. I’d prefer my current purgatory, with its vibrancy, vitality, and promise of bodily resurrection to the passive, minimalist, eternal Nirvana so often advocated.

But let’s reign in my tangent, during which I turned into UPS’s 1-800-response tree.

She walks slowly, perpendicular to my orientation, swallowing the Body and thinking upon

Upon

Upon

Upon what, I don’t know. I don’t know how the mysteries of Mass enact themselves upon me, much less her.

But she stops, turns ninety degrees, and executes two sharp steps, almost a single lunge toward the chalice in my hand. I’ve barely raised the earthenware chalice and I’ve barely recited the liturgy before she’s clutching at the stem, whispering her Amen, lifting the chalice, with my hand, to her lips. She has no time for ceremony, she is thirsty for the Living Water, the water turned to wine, the simple feast shared among unnumbered multitudes in history, the sands on the shore and the stars in the sky, promised to Abraham. She doesn’t shroud her thirst in dignity; she holds no illusions of having earned the drink she receives. But what she has within her grasp she will not rescind, she cannot.

She imbibes so quickly I haven’t had time to remove my hands from the chalice before she returns control to me. She quickly turns to her right and walks back to her pew, head hung humbly, not shamefully. I twist the chalice counterclockwise as I wipe the rim. I look up and there is the next sinner, earnest for his turn at the well, with others lined up behind him. In my hands is a grace not my own, but one I get to share, one that we return to as often as we can. When the last has had their fill, we linger for a moment, the bread-bearer and I, waiting for the last sheep, or maybe Elijah, before putting away the leftovers, the twelve bushels we have left.

I return to my pew with the same posture as she did, though mine might be more rooted in exhaustion. Some might argue it’s just the residual effect of a quiet introvert having talked with fifty some people in a matter of minutes. Some may argue it’s the weight of the Holy Spirit, while others argue that the Spirit is not present in liturgy. But maybe it’s the weariness of a derelict painting doorposts in lamb’s blood for reasons he doesn’t fully understand, but knows are necessary.

 

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One Comment to “The Blood of Christ”

  1. I reread this today. the first read, I was nervous, taken off guard, worried. this time I find all I want to do is cry. I feel an exhaustion and heaviness in these words. the weight of writing them, of carrying them, of experiencing them.
    this moment with words reminds me to be thankful that He breathes for me.

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