At church we use the phrase “taking the sacrament” for the weekly taking of blessed bread and water, symbols of Christ’s body and blood offered in His atoning sacrifice. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Christ told his disciples at the Last Supper. Other churches have similar practices that are called Communion, The Lord’s Supper, Eucharist and other titles, often preceded by the word “Holy.”
In Relief Society recently we had a lesson about the Sacrament. At one point the instructor asked us to recall and share particularly memorable occasions when we’ve taken the Sacrament.
One woman described taking the sacrament outdoors on vacation with her family in Yellowstone National Park. Serenely surrounded just by loved ones and natural majesty – with a deer nonchalantly grazing nearby – it was especially holy and awe-filled. I could almost feel the mountain breezes and hear the susurrations of angels as she described it. It sounded transcendent.
Someone else described going to annual LDS women’s weekend retreats where a couple men – usually husbands of attenders – show up on Sunday morning to bless the bread and water. Then one of the men delivers a tray to the woman on the end of a large semi-circle and it is passed from woman’s hand to woman’s hand for 60 or so women, and then back to the priesthood holder – completing a meaningful circle of unity, purpose and grace.
I wanted to share an experience, too, but wasn’t sure what to say.
I could have mentioned the time on vacation in a small Hawaiian town where I noted that the men at the sacrament table would look more appropriate to their setting if they were wearing tropical shirts instead of the white ones church culture mandates. Then, when one man stood up during the prayer over the bread, I realized they were all wearing lava-lava/skirts. That last laugh was on me.
Or I could have told about the time my husband as bishop in a singles’ ward designated one Sacrament meeting completely focused on the Sacrament itself. He even baked the bread himself. Each talk, each hymn addressed the topic beautifully and at the end of the meeting – rather than the middle – the Sacrament was administered. Twenty years later, participants (besides me) in that meeting still recall it as a spiritual highlight.
But my mind was still on recent events – my son Chase’s exuberant March wedding, and the counterbalancing sad news of my father-in-law’s diagnosis of type of cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome, which has sabotaged his immune system. At 84, he has decided not to undergo chemo but wait “patiently” to succumb to the next virus or infection he encounters. I shared my thoughts on this here. Happily he is still with us. So far so good.
Aware of this grim news about his grandpa, Chase and new bride, Heather, took time to visit with him when they were in Utah for their reception. Chase reported that while it is always fascinating to hear Grandpa tell stories from his life or from the books he’s written, what Chase most likes – and will most miss – is just “hangin’ with Grandpa.” He went on to explain that he loves the comfort of talking with Grandpa on even the most prosaic matters – shoelaces, weeding the yard, their shared love of getting their heads scratched. No weighty matters are necessary. Just the warmth of familiarity, the comfort of being known and loved. Just the sacred ordinary.
So these were the thoughts I shared with my sisters in Relief Society.
Unusual settings, distinctive breads, prayers in unfamiliar tongues all shake us from routine. They catch our attention and help us see freshly what may have become rote to us. Such occasions can be spiritually energizing.
I hadn’t before credited a typical Sunday with the potential for majesty seated in its very ordinariness. But the recent awareness of limited time remaining with that precious commodity of “just hangin’ with Grandpa” provides new insight for me.
I now view the ordinary as a treasured gift. It seems contradictory to say that I don’t want to take the ordinary for granted. Isn’t that what we do with ordinary things? But I am convinced that what is ordinary can be at least as holy as the extraordinary, if we have eyes to see. Perhaps when I sit among the noisy toddlers, recognize the teenagers passing the trays, and fasten on the nicks of a building I have served in for decades, I work the meaning of the Sacrament intimately into my bones as no other setting can provide.