Eucharist and Pentecost

 

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. – Acts 2:1-4 (NRSV)

 While in Paris, we visited Notre Dame cathedral. Usually when I visit churches, they are empty except for visitors. On this day, however, the church was in full worship. Even though mass was in progress, Notre Dame was still full of visitors taking pictures. Although some people seated for worship were all the way back to the door and used video monitors to see what the priest was doing, we were able to walk right up to the side of where he was. While the service was beautiful, and we were there just as the Eucharist was being celebrated, I couldn’t think but how distracting it must be to have all these people walking around taking pictures while they were trying to worship.

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Eucharist during Mass, Notre Dame, Paris

 

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Westminster Abbey, London

A week later, we were in Westminster Abbey in London. I felt fortunate to be at the chapel just as a noon-day service was beginning. The chapel was out in the open, so people were walking around and talking (just as it was at Notre Dame, but without the photography). This wasn’t distracting except that it made it difficult to hear the priest at times.

It was odd to be sitting over a grave marker and to have the tombs of Isaac Newton and James Stanhope directly behind the Eucharist table.. What distracted me most, though, was the lady behind me talking throughout the service. I couldn’t figure out why she bothered to sit there if she was going to talk.

Then I realized she was translating for the person next to her. How quick I was to assume the worst of someone! We were in France both Sundays on the trip, and I did not look for a church because it would have been in French and I wouldn’t have understood. It was meaningful for me to be at Westminster for a communion service – and at least that meaningful for the person behind me receiving the translation.

 

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” – Acts 2:5-11 (NRSV)

At Salisbury Cathedral there had been an amazing Pentecost sculpture. Here, the altar cloth was also a Pentecost theme. The readings for the day were for the feast of John the Baptist – an evangelist.

 

Pentecost Sculpture, Salisbury Cathedral, England

Pentecost Sculpture, Salisbury Cathedral, England

Suddenly this all came together with the Eucharist in this historic church: someone was hearing the Gospel in a language they could understand! And just like math is a universal language, so too, is the Eucharist. Regardless of language, age, or denomination, we all hold the Eucharist in common.

The Eucharist is the Gospel in language we can all understand.

One other blessing during this service was the invitation to receive the Eucharist if it was your practice to do so in your own church. The openness of the space and the translation of another language was a manifestation of the openness of the table.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for binding us all together in this mystery of faith.  Amen.

5 responses to “Eucharist and Pentecost

  1. Michelle, it pains me to say that we’ve come to a fork in the road where I must take issue with your ideas, and move in a different direction.
    I’m sorry, but the Communion Rite of the Mass, that deals with the Body and Blood, which most of us Catholics call the Eucharist, is the most sacred, intrinsic, and non-negotiable thing we have.
    If those churches had been Catholic, and not the Church of England, there would have been no walking about and photography going on.
    Some choose to say that our communion table is “closed”. It’s not that our purpose is to be aloof or begrudging, or exclusive in the negative sense. We just hold the Eucharist up in awe and with the greatest respect, because we truly believe that it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. And we demand the due respect and full recognition of it as such. We simply feel that if a person hasn’t fully participated in the Sacraments that we hold as preparatory to receiving it, they should refrain from doing something that they may do in their own way elsewhere, but aren’t, maybe , “on the same page”, so to speak there in that part of the Mass.
    Actually, Catholics would have been on their knees a good bit of the time during that part of the Mass, whether there were kneelers available or not. They would have knelt on the floor at the presence of the consecrated gifts, (been there, done that many times) and remained there until the altar was cleared.
    It’s hard to make all that sound like it’s not exclusive and sanctimonious, but we can’t move an inch on something so sacred and, in our eyes, divine.
    Have a good day,
    Michael

    • Hi Michael –

      As always, I appreciate and value your comments and reflections. I believe that I join you in a high view of the Sacraments, even though I recognize only two. The Sacraments are central to my call to ministry and the primary reason I sought ordination versus lay ministry.

      I think it’s OK – or at least I’m OK – with us having differing views on both the Eucharist and whether the table is “open.” I respect the Catholic high view of the Eucharist as the central and most sacred part of the mass. My own theology of the Sacraments also holds the Eucharist as sacred, however, I believe in an open table. As a sinner, I realize that I come to the table in need of life and nourishment as I try to live out my faith. For those who come without this view and see it only as simple elements, I feel that this is all it is. They cannot profane the meal I receive just as I cannot make it sacred for them – even when we partake next to each other.

      Notre Dame is Roman Catholic; however, I imagine that most attending the mass were tourists or visitors (who may or may not have been Catholic). I believe there were kneelers on the chairs – I saw them in each Catholic church I went into as well as some others. I don’t recall kneeling at the time the elements were elevated, although I’m sure many were. I was surprised Notre Dame allowed photography during the mass, but I imagine they may have given up this battle with so many tourists passing through their doors each day.

      Again, while I struggle with a “closed” table because of my views on the sovereignty of God and it being a visible reminder of how fragmented the Church is, I hope I did not disrespect you and your beliefs.

      Peace,
      Michelle

      • No, my friend, I guess I just had to bloviate a little. : ) I have a problem with some who disregard it, and then condemn Catholics for regarding it so highly, which you weren’t doing at all.
        I respect your struggle with the closed table. The fact is that many Catholics disregard it too, and I see your point that they can’t profane the meal for me.
        Someone said it’s like stepping on Jesus’s foot when you receive without that regard for it. That’s why some of us get so protective of the whole thing.
        You didn’t disrespect me. I should know by now how sincere you are, and respectful of all faiths.
        Thanks for replying.
        God bless you.

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