“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you …” – 1 Corinthians 11:23
There is nothing that touches me the way the Mass touches me. Whether as a child receiving communion for the very first time in a non-denominational church my grandmother took me to (I was about nine or ten, unbaptized, and actually thought coffee hour snacks were being served early as the plate with the Chiclet-shaped bread and little cuplets [sic] of grape juice were passed from person to person in the pews) or as a priest administering the Sacrament, I have never not known the presence of God in the Mass. I remember my first communion in an Episcopal church – by which time I was a young teen (and still unbaptized) – and that which I came to learn was called the “prayer of humble access” (“we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under thy table, O merciful Lord …”) taught me not to fear coming to the table (for all my sins both known and unknown), but to delight in coming to the table by the invitation of One who wrapped me in his own worthiness. We are not worthy, but “thou art the same Lord whose property is always – ALWAYS – to have mercy.”
It was not just the words of institution that were passed along to St. Paul, but the gift of mercy, the gift of grace, the gift of God’s very own presence in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. Paul is clear. These things aren’t given to us by the other Apostles but from Jesus. Like Paul, a priest may stand behind the Altar, but it is Jesus who consecrates the elements; it is Jesus who breaks the bread and shares the cup. I am not worthy, but through God’s grace, I am healed. It is well with my soul.
God, you take a simple thing like bread and knead yourself into it so that we may have life. You take the simple juices of grapes, crushed, stored, and (in the fullness of time) pour into them your Spirit so that we may have joy. So allow those elements to enter our very own bloodstream, that we may find strength and courage to deliver unto others what you have delivered unto us – health, holiness, and well-being; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
– Fr. Keith Axberg