High School, Junior year. They were renovating the school chapel for the nth time, and all class masses (held per section once a month) were to be held at the mini-theatre which was across the hall from the chapel. Being the only inducted acolyte in my class, I automatically became the assigned server for all our class masses.
Mass at the mini-theatre, in the long and short of it, wasn’t really that much different from mass at the chapel. Except, perhaps, for the fact that the altar was placed atop a stage where we’ve held plays and fashion shows. But as far as I was concerned, the only new thing I had to worry about was making sure I didn’t fall off the narrow stage.
It was after communion, and I had gone through my altar server duties with nary a hitch when, during ablution (the part where the priest cleans and assembles the chalice back together), the priest motions for me to come closer. He gives me the following instructions: “Since I have to walk all the way down the corridor to return the consecrated host to the Tabernacle (which, naturally, could not be transferred to the mini-theatre), I need you to finish cleaning the chalice for me–drink what’s left, wipe it clean, and…you know how to put it back together, right?” If I had nodded, it must have been the weakest and slowest nod ever.
It was all I could do to keep my hands from shaking. But, trying my best to remember what we’d been taught in altar server training, I proceeded to do what I had been told. I poured a small amount of water into the cup, carefully swirling to catch any consecrated particles on the sides of the chalice and, to my whole class’ surprise, I drank. Bottom’s up.
(Note: Now, more than 10 years later, I realize how that priest should not have left me to perform the ablution for him–this task should be carried out only by an ordained priest, or at the very least, a deacon. But the missteps of our clergy is not the focus of this post; we will reserve that for another discussion.)
Instantly, I felt a warmth all over my body. Arguably, I was a 16-year-old who just gulped a mouthful of wine, at high noon no less, but I don’t think it was the alcohol. Nor was it the faces of 40 girls, mouths agape at what they had just witnessed. It wasn’t even the hot, humid weather.
It was His Blood, taken into my body.
As soon as I marched to the back of the room at recessional, I went straight to the tiny prayer room beside the chapel. There, I knelt, bowed low, and wept. So much of Him, I had just received so much of Him! How could I have been found worthy…no, He chose to give Himself to me, worthy or not.
As we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi this Sunday, let us remember how blessed we are to receive Him into our bodies. This is not just a wafer, and definitely not just a symbolic gesture–this is Christ Incarnate, making Himself available to us, for us, to be with us. As we receive Him, may our hearts be a suitable dwelling place for a King. May our bodies be empty enough (do not forsake the Eucharistic fast!) so as to make us hungry enough to long to receive Him desperately, reverently, lovingly.
The Eucharist is GIFT–the most beautiful, powerful gift Christ has given us. Do all you can, physically, mentally, spiritually, to be consciously ready to receive Him.