Reflections from Easter Vigil: Part III

Bringing forth the gifts!
I think I have talked about the "easy" sacraments: Baptism and Confirmation. Eucharist, or communion, involves a whole lot of mystery, beauty, and confusion. Eucharist is the cornerstone of Catholicism in my opinion. It is the core of what makes it different from any other Christian church.

From the very first time I attended mass, at about age 15 or 16, I have been overwhelmingly curious about the Eucharist. The Catholic Church does not have an open table, meaning you must be a Catholic in order to receive. So the curiosity stems from not knowing or understanding what happens when people receive communion. And a deep desire to receive occurs when one cannot do so. If I had to pick one of the three sacraments that I received during Easter Vigil as the one I was most looking forward to it would be Eucharist.

Indeed, if I had to pick one thing I was most looking forward to when going to Italy, Catholic paradise, it would be communion. But, alas, I did not receive communion even once there. But, in a way, communion was brought to me at many of our beautiful meals...

Above is just one example of non-consecrated Eucharist, or literally Thanksgiving, that we received at our meals in Italy. House red wine (so delicious!) and bread (I never ate any :( )... communion is such a part of Italian culture.

At my home parish, I can receive under both species -- bread and wine. My home parish provides a very, very low gluten host for Celiacs like myself. But, when out and about, I can only receive Eucharist through wine for medical reasons. And sometimes, like at weekday mass or anytime in Italy or at a Eucharistic Adoration in Yosemite, I was unable to take communion because... no wine! So I had to simply be OK with simply being in the presence of Christ. It should be enough. But oh that desire. After becoming Catholic, it is even stronger than before.

We Catholics believe that during Mass the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ. It is not symbolic, it is real. There is no doubt that this sounds strange, maybe even cannibalistic, to some people. But in the context of Catholicism, it is not all that strange.

Catholicism is incredibly sensual. We have the smells of incense and oils, the touching of Rosary beads, sprinkling of water, the elaborate sights of art, architecture, statues, and crucifixes, the kissing of sacred objects, and, yes, the consumption of Christ's body and blood. It is a religion where you feel your beliefs. And for me, the core of my beliefs is that God is love.

I used to be freaked out by crucifixes. Maybe I still am a little. But now I focus on the love that God had for us when God laid down God's life for us, God's friends. I think about the friends who were there for Christ, especially Mary Magdalene, as he died. I think about how I am called to be with people through rough times.

When I consume Christ's body, I am consuming love. I am becoming love. With and being a part of Eucharist, I am to go out and spread love, the good news, where I can. And that is from where that desire, that craving, for Eucharist stems. A desire to receive love and to give love to others.

So I think those deep feelings of disappointment when I cannot receive Eucharist are justified by these beliefs. There is something important and transformative when I receive communion. It is not just enough to adore it. In order for me to feel whole, I need to receive it. But I can be sustained through adoration and seeing communion all around me. Every meal I share with another is communion. Now, if only every meal included those delightful house red wines we enjoyed in Italy!

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