You know when you get an ear worm? That's when a song just keeps playing over and over in your head, tormenting you.
Well, the whole communion/chalice thing has been like that for the last couple of days. I am starting to see it as a great metaphor for all kinds of things, and keep coming across situations that remind me of it. It's not that I feel guilt, either. It is more like God is using this experience to open my eyes to other things.
Today, during bible study, we were talking about all the ways that we, as Christians, are asked to straddle the two worlds. This world in which we live, and God's world. Jesus spent much of his ministry showing that the laws of our world don't always apply to his world. He paid a heavy price for that teaching, as do we, sometimes, when we choose to follow him.
It struck me that the sharing of the chalice is an example of us having to eschew the normal rules and do something outrageous because Jesus asks us to. We share a cup with dozens or hundreds of strangers and friends each Sunday. How nuts is that? Can you imagine? In my past life, I wouldn't have shared a coffee with some of these people, but now I am asked to drink from the same cup. It is an act of faith and thanksgiving to step up to that rail, kneel down and take into my mouth the blood of our lord, who happens to have been touched by the lips of all who came before me. It is, on the face of it, in these times of germ terrorism, a ridiculous and breathtakingly otherworldly thing to do.
As I was talking about this at the Bible study, I could see a look of recognition dawn on the face of Fr. Rich. He suddenly realized that at the Eucharist he is drinking the dregs of a cup that more than a hundred people have sipped from. I don't think he had ever thought of it in those terms before. For the first time, he acknowledged the immense power and faith inherent in that act.
Perhaps that is part of the role of priests. By taking what is left behind and carrying it inside of themselves, they connect all of us, together, in Christ. In a very physical way, they straddle the two worlds and offer themselves as a bridge for the rest of us.
When is the next ember day? I am going to fast in thanksgiving for all those new priests. And today I give thanks for all the ones who are already out there.