Author's Note: Communion is the celebration of the Last Supper. There are two elements: bread or a wafer and wine or grape juice depending on your denomination’s practices. Also depending on your denomination’s practices is whether the offering is symbolic or it actually becomes the body and blood of Christ.
Theological differences aside, I would like to focus on the repast or meal itself and what it means to share in this special meal with others.
I was raised Catholic but became agnostic from the age of thirteen or fourteen. I officially stopped going to mass when I turned eighteen. Still interested in religion, I wanted answers to the big questions and after several years of higher education I found myself knocking on Philosophy’s door. What I found was what philosophers call an aporia or inherent paradox. The philosophical reasoning ran out after a while and I was left with a choice: to believe or not to believe. I stubbornly remained undecided. Communion became part of the special-occasion masses at Christmas and Easter.
Then life decided to teach me other lessons and I went through a rough time. One day I was sitting alone in my apartment, feeling the deafening silence and isolation and I suddenly had a singular thought: “Find a church.”
I tried one church and found it closed. Never one to give up easily I turned right and walked to the next one. It was open; they greeted me warmly and gave me a book to read and a schedule of services. I had just met the Episcopalians. They mentioned an interdenominational service on Mondays. That was where I met Jenn, Jason and Sara. They were leading the Slate Project. It was the first service I would attend at my new church. I quickly became a regular at the more traditional Sunday morning service and the monastic service on Thursday nights as well as at Breaking Bread.
When I arrived at my first Breaking Bread service, I was overcome by friendliness. Everyone greeted each other and prepared for dinner. One or two chefs manned the kitchen. After singing and lighting candles, we gathered in a circle and one of the ministers blessed a loaf of bread and broke it in two, saying “This is my body, broken for you.” Jenn’s four-year-old son endearly calls it the “Jesus Bread.” Half the loaf was passed around and each person broke off a piece, handing it to his or her neighbor and echoing the minister’s words. I wondered what happened to the wafer but once I tried the Jesus Bread a quiet calm settled over my heart. It stayed there as I made new friends over dinner and I got to take the feeling home with me. We all shared in the loaf. Grape juice was drunk at the end of the meal as one of the ministers said “And at the end of the meal, he took the cup and said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’”
I have “Jesus Bread” and wine at the other services, both with social events afterward. Three times a week I receive the sacrament, which I find spiritually nourishing and I get to enjoy the company of my fellow parishioners, which is emotionally uplifting. It’s a lot easier to hold the “big questions” in my heart and accept that sometimes there is no clear answer, just Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith.”
Is it any wonder we find the word “community” in “communion?”
Pamela M. Shuggi is a member of the Cathedral of Incarnation in Baltimore. She blogs about books and experiences as vehicles to her personal and professional journey. Follow her at https://pamelashuggi.com. She teaches Spanish at Morgan State University and is a freelance writer, editor and translator. She is the proud pet parent of Caesar, an orange and white tabby cat. She enjoys knitting, reading, practicing yoga and walking.