Food for thought: communion is more than a ‘church’ thing
March 20, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: January 17, 2013 | 1:51 pm)
At least once a week my friends and I gather around bottles of good wine and play counselor for one another. That is: we unravel the ins and outs of life during week.
Sometimes the stories that unfold are benign and humorous, while other times – particularly with the help of several glasses of wine – they are deeply emotional and startlingly revealing. I’ve been presented with a good laugh when stories bowled me over, and with hugs when words didn’t quite say enough.
We have all had these moments. Gay or straight, we have found ourselves sharing a meal and a moment with friends who bring us closer together. They make us a little bit more vulnerable each time – a little bit more authentically us. And they form memories never to be forgotten.
In the LGBT community, we have built and fostered relationships of every kind. There is the implicit understanding that adversity is best faced in relationships – romantic and platonic, lovers and friends, neophytes and mentors. Whatever the challenge, we have returned to our strongest roots: each other.
I know we often speak of community and the many ways in which LGBT lives intersect, but there is another connection I beg you to consider. And I ask you to keep an open mind.
Growing up Catholic, I spent most of my Sundays at church. The rigor of the Mass was clear, and very seldom departed from. There were Scriptural readings, hymns, a sermon, and the most ceremonious part of all – communion.
As a young boy, communion meant one, ritualistic thing. It meant the chalice and the wine, the stale little wafers tossled about in a silver dish, the gnarled hands of a priest lifting them both into the air, chanting this and that in flowery Latin. It meant the pomp of receiving both with a humble “Amen,” retreating to a pew and praying about the gravity of receiving the body of Christ.
It was unique. It was monumental. And it could not be reproduced.
What I didn’t see then, but I do see now, is the soul of communion as the Catholic Church practices it. To many in the LGBT community, Christian communion is a foreign thing, connected to a conservative institution at odds with who we are. But communion is by no means only a Christian ritual.
Communion is – and always should be – the coming together of people in relationship. It is the opportunity to celebrate and mourn what has happened in our lives, leaning on those we love to help us through to brighter days. It is in communion we find hope, spending time with those close to us. We share laughter, we share tears, we share celebrations and we share defeat. And often, we share them with the comforts of food and wine.
The Christian church has no patent on communion. We talk often of our community, and in that is our own communion – whoever comes together, whatever food is enjoyed, and whatever the conversation may be. There is, perhaps, more spiritual tenor in that than we have dared acknowledge. But I say, it is something to embrace.
And as I envision this week’s communion shared with newly discovered Cab and leftover Chinese food, I must confess: this, too, is monumental.