Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Festival of August 13
The crowd at the magnificent cathedral divided into two lines, one for the tour and one for the Mass. Wanting to be more of a pilgrim than a tourist, I steered our family to the left.
Mass began with a glorious organ prelude transporting us to a different reality. A procession of brightly robed clergy and choristers followed a towering crucifix down the aisle to the altar. An acolyte bathed an ornate Bible in fragrant incense, and God’s Word spoke through the cloud. In similar fashion, a bishop covered the altar with another mysterious cloud. Standing behind a chalice, his voice rose in prayer. Taking bread in his hands, he slowly and deliberately lifted a large, round wafer high above his head, high above the altar. In a language different from my own, he then spoke words that could only have been: This is my body.
All the music, words, smoke, and prayers—everything in that magnificent service led to this high moment believed to be the one when Christ becomes present in the bread. Why? Because for centuries, Christians have been drawn to the Communion table by an innate desire to touch God. In the Roman Catholic Mass, it is believed that Christ is physically present in the bread, even as it retains the appearance of bread. In the formative years of the Moravian Church, we made a deliberate decision to allow a diversity of beliefs regarding the presence of Christ in the bread and cup. Nonetheless, the same innate desire to “touch God” draws us to the Table.
Christ is the Bread that came down from heaven. All praise and thanks to God, that while we have this inherent desire to touch God, God has an even deeper desire to touch us.
John D. Rights, pastor, Konnoak Hills Moravian Church
Winston-Salem, North Carolina