“And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” 1 Corinthians 11:24-25
Dear St. Lukers,
As a grandfather, I am firmly in the second half of my life. Thinking about the ritual of Holy Communion has me thinking about other rituals – especially those that pass something on to my family. The decorating of the Christmas tree and the flood of memories as each ornament is taken from the storage bin and placed on the tree. The family gathering around the table for Thanksgiving and the cacophony of noise that lasts for hours. The invigorating times teaching kids how to drive. Discussing politics, theology, friends – you name it, for hours until all the world’s problems are solved.
It also hits me how many of my rituals have been deeply, and in some ways negatively, impacted by COVID-19 and the desire to protect my family and friends. Isolation. No large gathering of family and friends. No choir and, therefore, no weekly meetings of the BRBs – the back-row basses. No hugs!
Why rituals? Merriam-Webster defines ritual as “an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” But why? Why does mom always have to hang that ornament? Why does dad have to carve the turkey? Why does the choir take time to share prayer concerns? Why does the ballplayer adjust his arm band, then tap home plate with the bat, and so on – every time he comes to the plate? Why did Jesus say eat this bread/drink this cup? Perhaps it is to give us a sense of control, or perhaps to diminish negative or uncertain feelings. Perhaps it is simply to reaffirm the connection we seek and need.
COVID-19 has greatly impacted our rituals, including Holy Communion. I’ve always been moved when I stand with friends to receive the elements by intinction or, better still, to be able to serve the elements to one another. For now, this ritual is transformed into drink and bread shared at home or from a prepackaged cup and wafer at church. But the ritual continues. And it reaffirms my connection with Jesus and my fellow believers.
Grace and peace,
Richard Jans, St. Luker