"Receiving the Eucharist does not mean eating a 'thing-like' gift (Body and Blood). No, there is a person-to-person exchange, a coming of one into the other. The living Lord gives himself to me, enters into me, and invites me to surrender myself to him, so that the Apostle's words come true: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.' (Gal. 2:20) Only thus is the reception of Holy Communion an act that elevates and transforms a man." --from "The Spirit of the Liturgy" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI

"How many times have you felt something happen to you in church? How many times have you walked into church expecting something to happen?" --Rev. Michael Blewett

A couple of months ago I had lunch with our clergy secretary, who is a faithful Catholic woman. I did make her talk shop just a little bit, because I had some questions about various Catholic beliefs and traditions I had recently heard about. As we were getting ready to head back to work, we started to talk about Communion. I've been raised with the explanation that the elements (bread and wine) are really Jesus' body and blood because He said so, but the substance (the flour and grapes and whatnot) don't themselves become anything different. The Catholic belief is that what's given in the Eucharist has truly become Christ. And I have no problem with that. I would happily commune in a church that practiced that way. What I disagree with is churches who say that the bread and wine are just symbols. I said to Heidi, "I believe communion is what God says it is, so it doesn't matter to me exactly what happens to the elements, but something has to happen."

And it shouldn't just be the elements that experience some change every week in church. We who worship should be different people each week, or each day, when we walk out of the worship service. That's the point, after all-- transformation that allows us to better hear God's word and do the work He commands.

The trouble is that most congregation members rush into church at the last second, hear the Word, shuffle through the bulletin looking for announcements during the sermon (I am honestly making an effort to stop doing this, and shuffle during the offering instead) and many members hit the doors after communion. Yes, they receive the important parts (Word and Sacrament) but I don't think they should be at all surprised when they don't feel changed. People who worship this way haven't prepared in a way that opens them to transform.

A plan of mine is to find whatever students are in the building fifteen minutes before worship begins and gather with them for ten minutes of preparation before the service. We'll spend the first few minutes pointing out things to look for in the service; is it a feast day for a saint? Are there special guests? What's the historical context they need to understand the Gospel? Then we'll collect prayer requests from that group so they know what to add to the prayer list. And we'll close with a time of silence, to calm our bodies and minds so we walk into worship open to the power of what happens there.

If we're not drawing students into worship with the larger community, we're missing the point of our time together. But if we're only plunging them into a worship that isn't designed for people (and that's good; worship is about God, not about us, so there are supposed to be things we don't completely understand) and not offering them time to prepare, we mishandle our stewardship of these young disciples.


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