Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Couldn't Stop Smiling

Today at 10:30 mass, I was an Eucharistic Minister for the first "official" time. I say that because there have been about half a dozen times in the past six months when I have been thrust into the position (literally... the priest has just handed me the chalice and cloth, and walked away. Every time it happened, I have been taken by surprise, and have bumbled it in some way).

It was a journey for me to reach the place where I stood this morning, holding Jesus in my hands. First, I had to come to know that Jesus was fully present in the Eucharist. Then, I had to overcome my own lack of readiness.

In September of last year, my parish held a "Stewardship Fair" in which they had representatives from the many ministries available to try to recruit additional volunteers. At the time, both my husband and my mother suggested that I should volunteer as an Eucharistic Minister. My response was immediate and certain: "I can't. I'm not ready to hold Jesus and present Him to others yet. He'll let me know when I am ready."

The first time I was thrust into that position was Easter Tuesday last March. After mass was over that day, I sat in my car and cried for about 10 minutes. I was so deeply humbled and awed that He allowed me to serve Him in that way. When I told DH, he said that now I could volunteer to EM at mass. I said, "No. I am still not ready. He'll let me know. I am sure of it."

At each of the handful of times since then, I had the same reaction... deep awe and humility, and the certainty that I was not yet there. But about six weeks ago, I was at 10:30 mass with BigBro and Princess. DH was ill, and LilBro had stayed at home with him. We had had horrendous weather all morning (the remnants of a hurricane pushing through our area), and attendance at mass was lighter than usual. When the time came for the EMs to step into the aisle during the Agnus Dei, only 2 came forward. At this mass, we typically have 6 EMs. I watched Pastor's "deer in the headlights" glances at the 4 chalices and 3 ciboriums on the altar, and then back to the 2 people in the aisle. I watched as, one-by-one, people came from different places to help fill this need. One woman left the choir. The lector stepped into the aisle. And I knew that I belonged out there... but without proper training and the official blessing, I could not step in that day. It is one thing to step in untrained at a small mass in the chapel; a completely different thing to step up during Sunday high mass.

The next day, I called the woman in charge of the liturgy commission and volunteered. This past Tuesday, she and her husband (a Deacon) trained me and the Deacon administered the official blessing. I was really nervous. In fact, so nervous that I had a nightmare that night in which I was holding the ciborium and started munching on the consecrated hosts as if they were potato chips.

This morning, I was still pretty nervous, though calmer than I had been. I had decided that I would stand in the Precious Blood position. At least I had done that before. The whole first half of the mass, I kept thinking about what I needed to do, going over all the different scenarios in my mind. But, I got completely caught up in the consecration. I forgot everything except for the presence of our Lord. DH had to elbow me and remind me to step out into the aisle during the Agnus Dei. I stood there, watching Pastor elevate the host and chalice and said a prayer of thanks for this awesome act of trust.

When we stepped up onto the altar, everything was different than the Deacon and his wife had said, and I ended up with a ciborium. Somehow, I missed out on receiving the Precious Blood. But it didn't matter. I stepped down into the aisle, raised the Precious Body and looked at the woman who was standing before me. "The Body of Christ," I said. I smiled at her as I placed Him in her hands. From that point on, I could not stop smiling. This was the most amazing, most joyful, most wonderful gift I could ever give to anyone. And I got to give it to so many people. Over and over and over, I held Jesus between my fingers, said those special words and gave Him away.

Of all the things I've learned since becoming a mother six and a half years ago, the thing I've come to understand most clearly is that it really is better to give than to receive. I always enjoy watching my children open gifts much more than I enjoy opening them myself. But nothing can compare to the deep, humble, awed joy I felt this morning, as I watched person after person receiving Jesus Christ. Thank you, my sweet Lord, for this incredible blessing.

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