Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's Incarnational

I became a layreader in the Episcopal Church sometime in late 1996. The following year I became a LEM 1 and 2 [that's Lay Eucharist Minister 1 (serving the chalice at Eucharist) and 2 (being able to take Eucharist to those who were homebound right after church on Sunday)]. There was something about vesting [wearing a special white liturgical robe called an alb with the appropriate colored rope cincture (belt)] that transformed a person from church member into something else. For me, it was always an "incarnational" moment [this word courtesy of my current priest who put a meaning to my pathetically scattered and wordy description of the feeling one gets at times like that] when, appropriately vested in alb, cincture and pectoral cross, I moved in the processional beginning the service and felt a part of something much more important than my singular self. Music and voice rise all around you at times like that, as you move up the aorta of the nave, cross the transept and up to the altar proper. The altar, a whole different state of being....

The layreader, as opposed to the lector, reads the New Testament reading and usually leads the Prayers of the People. In those first years I was in a church without a public address system but that was ok with me. I had experience in public speaking and being heard in a large church is not always possible unless you can project without "hollering". I loved reading, still do. Hope to do it again.

Vesting is one kind of incarnational experience but the real "transformation" comes when Eucharist comes....the reading or singing by the priest of the Eucharist Prayer is a time of stillness, a time when chronos stops and kairos begins. For some of us, it is a time-traveling experience, as it is for me personally. And if you have a priest or priests who completely immerse themselves into the moment, into that "last supper" state of mind, and body, and heart, then you are so THERE at the Last Supper, it literally takes your breath away.

I personally know of a handful of priests with whom I have experienced this incarnational kairos time. I am sure there are more in all of Christendom who are fully immersed in that very Jesus-moment. And then, there are those that are not, who play the role well and convincingly but are not in the Jesus-moment. For them I pray for a deeper grace and knowledge that is beyond their current understanding.

As an altar server, you participate fully in that incarnational experience. Especially if you are as attuned as the priest who is celebrating. Everytime I am served the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven, I receive the wafer from her hand and I look up and see Jesus looking back at me. And when the Cup of Salvation moves toward me, I look up and into the eyes of the Lay Eucharist Minister and I see Jesus again--different person, but same Lord looking back at me. It doesn't get more spiritual and incarnational than that.

Once the General Thanksgiving is said, chronos time resumes. We prepare for the recessional and we sing our way back down the nave and into everyday life. I live for kairos time in my soul, for that is where I am nourished and meet my Lord in the persons of my priest and the lay Eucharist ministers in a very tangible way. And we need that tangible experience, as well as the intangible. In some ways, these ministers are the Word/the Christ made flesh in our time, in our reality, in our lives. I give thanks for each and every one of them, and hope to resume my service likewise and soon. There is a quote given to me by an old friend, a priest [she's one of the few, the incarnational, the Clergy!], and that quote by William of Glasshampton is this:

"A priest ought always to say Mass with this expectancy:
he ought to be prepared for the Host and everything to
fall away and Jesus Himself appear."

And He does, in His ministers...it's incarnational.

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