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The Last Sacrament Cup

By Catherine Arveseth

Our five children ping-ponged between our laps, shuffled around for seats, as my husband and I pulled out books and crayons to settle our noisy crew for sacrament meeting.

It was just before the New Year and we were visiting a ward in St. George, Utah. A ward that had no primary or youth program because it was composed mostly of retired couples. No twelve-year-old Deacons bumped elbows on the front row; it was the High Priests who were preparing to bless and pass the sacrament.

Normally, the ward would have gently filled the padded seats of the chapel, but on this holiday weekend, the overflow divider was pushed wide and we, with a number of other families, were nestled onto metal folding chairs that stretched to the back of the gym.

The meeting progressed as usual and I watched as a dozen older gentlemen carried trays of bread, then water, through the bursting rows. They were making great effort to manage the unusually large crowd. Their faces were kind. Some had rounded shoulders and bent spines. They whispered directions to each other. One wore cowboy boots. One winked at the little girl in front of us.

My daughters and I took the last cups of water on our tray and handed it to my husband, Doug, who passed the empty tray to the brother standing at the end of our row.

The Bishop stood at the pulpit to assess the situation. When he asked who had not received the water, a few pockets of people, including Doug, raised their hands. So the brethren returned to the sacrament table, offered a second prayer on new water and delivered it to the waiting members.

Our row was last to receive the water this time and I noticed that Doug offered the couple next to him the two remaining cups. The tray was empty and it appeared to me that Doug was the only one who hadn’t had the water. I wondered what he would do. Would he let it go? Not worry about it this week?

But when the Bishop asked if anyone had not received the water, Doug raised his hand. He was, as I suspected, the only one. He looked at me and we smiled, conscious of the craned necks and curious eyes.

The brethren returned to the table for a third prayer on the water. And suddenly, as I heard that phrase, “to sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it…” (Doctrine & Covenants 20:79), a realization crept into my heart. An understanding so keen it pried me clear open and God’s spirit swept in. It was a reverence I hadn’t felt in too long.

They were praying over one cup. For one person. One soul.

The sacrament mattered. Even for one. Just as the Atonement mattered. For one.

For every one.

Hundreds of members waited for the Amen. Dozens watched as the last cup was delivered to my husband, and he put it to his lips, and drank.

I had to look away my eyes were so wet.

I looked up in time to see these sweet men in suits cover the trays with white linen. Just as Christ’s body, broken for us, was covered. Just as His Atonement covers us. All of us.

You and I are indisputably tied to Christ’s suffering. All our sins, grief, hurts, and losses are held in the drops of his blood. He said we are “graven upon the palms of [his] hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

I recalled a similar feeling when two young boys knelt in our living room to bless a cup of water and piece of bread for me, alone. We had just brought our tiny, premature twin boys home from the hospital, one still on oxygen, and for a few months I was unable to attend church. Every week these shining boys knocked on our door and I knelt next to them on the hardwood floor. I was humbled they would bring the sacrament to me. That they would offer those prayers for me. For one.

The next Sunday, while sitting in our regular ward chapel, children still ping-ponging, I opened the hymn book to prepare for the sacrament. These are the words we sang:

Rev’rently and meekly now,
Let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.

Reverently and Meekly Now, Hymn #185. Lyrics by Joseph L. Townsend.

All the other sacramental hymns are written in third person, about the Savior, or in letter form, to the Savior. But this hymn is written in first person, as if the Savior is speaking directly to us. It is so tender and personal. Well-worth a reading of all four verses. (Link above.)

Once again, I felt the emotion of watching Doug take the last sacrament cup. Of understanding that our Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel, would break not just bread, but body and soul, for me. For you. As if we were the only ones that mattered.

How do you feel about the sacrament ordinance? How do you make it meaningful? Can you tell us about a time you experienced a similar gratitude or reverence?

About Catherine Arveseth

Catherine Arveseth is mother to five children, including two sets of twins. She is an exercise physiologist by profession, writer by passion, loves hiking with her family, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and the edge of an ocean. She and her husband, Doug, began their family in Virginia but now live in Salt Lake City, Utah. She blogs at wildnprecious.com.

28 thoughts on “The Last Sacrament Cup”

  1. Thanks for opening the comments to this (there have been a few posts recently I've tried to comment on where I couldn't). I had a lot more to say yesterday, but today I'll just say I know exactly the feeling you had when the sacrament was blessed just for someone you care about, and how that specific hymn reminded you of it. Thank you.

  2. Very insightful and inspiring! Thank you for taking the time to share. I expect to have a better experience this Sunday as a result of some thoughts that were elicited from this article. Keep growing and building the Kingdom!

  3. My eyes are wet too. I bet most who read this have wet eyes. Your perspective and insights are admirable traits. Thanks for training your young ones to go to Church.

  4. We have a lot of storms here where I live. We all gather up to clean the damage. Sometimes it is the stake president that called sometimes it is the area 70. We usually start on Friday and work thru Sunday. On Sunday we have a short Sacrament meeting.
    Once we had a bad ice storm, and while looking at the deacon passing the sacrament in the yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirt hands stained with pine sap from the trees he had been cleaning the two days before it made me think of the importance of those sacred symbols

  5. Thanks for sharing this. The sacrament is such an amazing thing…or it can be meaningless. I like to think of how Christ just asks us to be a tiny bit of bread, a tiny sip of water more like him each week. The symbols of the sacrament layer on the love I feel from my Savior when I take the time during the service to think what it really means. You've described it beautifully here.

  6. I can still remember the powerful witness I received the first time I heard a young priest say the phrase "which was shed for them" with emphasis on the last word. I think the priests quorum in my ward must have had a special lesson on the sacrament prayers a couple of years ago, because they have been saying them more slowly, thoughtfully and distinctly since then. It has made the ordinance so much more meaningful to me. It keeps it from becoming perfunctory.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I remember when my son was blessing the sacrament one Sunday and had to do it three times. Rather than commiserate with me how embarrassing that must have been, my dear friend told me how much she appreciated the opportunity to really hear the prayer and listen to it. It's not just words, is it? It's a benediction, a blessing that we have the opportunity of having and of renewing our covenants every week. Amazing gift.
    Thank you

  8. Thank you for all the insightful, thoughtful comments here. I have felt a powerful, collective gratitude through your words. For the magnificent sacrifice the Savior made for each of us.

  9. What a beautiful story! I loved the comments too. The one comment about the deacon in his yellow Helping Hands shirt reminded me of the time when our Bishop got up at the very beginning of Sacramdnt Meeting and announced that if we got a call he would cancel church and we would all go fight the fire that was raging too near us. I was wondering if the call would come. But it didn't. The fire stopped right at the spot where we would have had to go and help if it had progressed beyond that point.

  10. Thank you for this lovely reminder, at the close of my difficult, cranky work day, that He was not cranky as He took my name through the agony in the garden. He was not mean-spirited in His agony on the cross. He was joyful in the Resurrection, for all of us. For you. And for me.
    You have done His work well today. Thank you again.

  11. Thank you so much for this blog post! This was just wonderful.
    I, too, am a blogger, but mine isn't ready to go live just yet. Yours is doing wonderfully! Good job!
    And yeah, I'm LDS as well!
    — Lori

  12. This is wonderful, well written and something I needed to hear–great reminder. Thanks. Now, if my 4 boys would just leave me alone during the sacrament…….. 😉

  13. Reverence for the sacrament and who and what it represents are so eloquently stated in your post! Thanks so much for the reminder. My eyes aren't wet, but they sure are sweating a lot. May you continue to recognize God's blessings that fill our lives!


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