Experiments with bread and wine

After six months of going to Spirit of Peace, the band of faithy people I had fallen in with, something stirred in me. They always would say “The table is open.” Meaning anyone can partake, no specific belief required, no error or identity wrong enough to get you nixed. No merit badge to earn, nothing to say or be. Some called it the Body of Christ, and the Blood, but I heard just as often a whispered bread of life and spiritual drink, or only eyes, no words. It seemed left to each to name. After all, this bunch was halfway kicked out, and halfway left, the Catholic church. Heretics, I suppose; no wonder I feel so at home. In here, women preach, ex-priests marry, nobody rules, the bread’s homemade, and the wine is probably Safeway.

Why, after at least fifteen years of knowing that that stuff wasn’t for me, was there a pull? Because this was an expression of community. Because there was no exclusion. And because there was no pressure. I mean NONE.

And so one day I went to the table and took onto my tongue the heavy crumble of bread and light sweet wine, and became more deeply. What were they really, the food and drink? In my cobbled-together theology, the components of life: earth baked in fire and air, water fermented with spirit. Ruins of other life, wheat and grapes and insects and humans, regenerated, infused. Accepting them, I accept that I too am comprised of these components, am being used, will one day be completely used, am not separate from that cycle of life and death. But that in this, there is also soul, which transcends, which I can’t, and don’t care that I can’t, put into words.

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Subsequently it occurred to me that I could be a baker too. All the time I make bread. Why not this? So they gave me the recipe, and I burned a bit of the cornmeal and molasses and scraped up the rest, poured it into the dough. Shoved aside keys and cords and papers to clear a tiny place to knead. My moods went out of me through the dough, and instead I thought of people with love – no mean feat for one so disillusioned with our species. The baby loaf rose in the sunlight. Then it baked, barely fitting in the apartment’s small oven, and there was no way to test its readiness without puncturing or slicing, so I had to hope. But it was good. And when it was broken and given, still hot, I felt not my own power, but the swimming flowing energy that always is, coming through my hands and works and my temporary warmth, passing into the people.

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And witnessing this, what is your typical spiritual unchristian hanger-on to do next? Obviously, sign up to be a minister of the eucharist. Ha! But yes. Yes, I’d like to be another pair of hands sharing earth, water, fire, air, spirit more directly. Eucharist’s from the Greek eukharistia, meaning thanksgiving or gratitude. What could be more right? They will teach me and I will learn, experiment, fall deeper in love. “Everything is preparation for something,” said J. Otis Powell!, a wise man I knew many years ago (and whose name really is spelled with an exclamation point). All right then, I am ready. Exclamation point!

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