An Embrace of Grace

This poetic reflection is an expression of eucharistic piety that is infrequent in present-day Western Christianity. The author's experience invites readers to share the experience and to reflect on the potency of the eucharistic encounter with Holy One. For the author's comment, see the end of this page. — Dan Benedict

The Body of Christ, honey sweet and dry
Coarse grains finding places to hide in the mouth
as if to linger, too much to swallow yet leaving me wanting more.

The Blood of Christ, burning on lips and tongue
Binding to sweet crumbs, softening and swelling.
"Just so, I am completed in you."

Singing in silence, wanting to touch and be touched,
Accepting the unity and solitude of the encounter,
I retreat from the table to lift a word of thanksgiving.

It is finished. The table is cleared.
The candles are extinguished.
All settles into a silence and a waiting.

Before this emptied table I bend the knee of my heart.
Encouraged by a cloud of witnesses I dare to lean.
Forgive me for I know not what I do.

Like an embrace of grace, the Beloved offers forgiveness to the lover.
Pure white atop penitential purple, the cloths lie still.
I quietly kiss the place where the body once lay. But where have they taken it?

My burning cheek presses against the spot, still warmed by holy presence.
My lips ache to kiss the feet, to kiss the hands.
Arms outstretched, I long to receive the kiss of the mouth.

But the sacrifice, so carefully consumed, leaves no trace but my tears.
Turning from the table, my fingers curl to fists,
To stifle ageless moans of longing.

I kneel. I sit. I lift the skirts of the table and lie beneath it.
Arms outstretched, again I weep, for even here I find no kisses, no crumbs.
The empty table holds me captive until the Beloved returns.

As a deacon, I understand that my call to Word and Service is deeply rooted in a personal relationship with Word and Table. The relationship between the deacon and sacramental practice is an ongoing conversation among some members of the Order of Saint Luke. The Eucharist, therefore, has been the focus of my meditation for this season of Lent. I engaged members of the Order of Saint Luke to join me in discernment around the idea that the deacon's role is more than being a bridge between the church and the world. Rather, it is to be the Table. Just as the Table bears the Body and Blood of Christ in our ritual remembrance, so the deacon bears the grace of Christ's transforming love to the world. In my reflection I am struck by what I see in our practice. The church is fastidious and all consuming in many regards and I wonder what "crumbs" remain that we can offer to others?

Deacon Cheryln Gates, OSL ([email protected]) Copyright © 2003 Cheryln Gates.

Posted with the writer's permission. We are grateful to Cheryln for sharing this with the wider church.

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