A lament for the Eucharist
Use with permission.
In the absence of being able to gather physically to celebrate Eucharist we offer these words and this prayer:
Eucharist of Absence
(inspired by Center for Christian Spirituality, Houston Texas)
(two people stand behind the altar on which there is an empty plate and chalice) – RING BELL
Person 1: We meet today in this place without our usual companions. We feel the absence of the gift of their accustomed presence.
Person 2: We feel the pain and heartache brought to this place over so many years of faithful worship.
BOTH: We are aware of the joyful celebrations that have reverberated within these walls.
Person 2: We remember that on the night that he was betrayed, Jesus shared a meal with his friends. It was not a joyful festive celebration. A sombre air filled the room. Jesus spoke of betrayal, denial and death – words no one wants to hear.
Person 1 (picks up plate): And then, he took bread and gave thanks. He broke the bread to share with his friends, saying “This is my body”.
Person 2: This broken bread is the sign of a fractured world whose deadly power broke upon Jesus and his friends.
BOTH: Today there is no bread. We cannot share the body. We accept the discipline of distance. We cannot hear each other’s voices. We meet in the awareness of absence.
Person 1: If we had heard the voice in that room as the light of day darkened to night, we might have felt the weight and the sorrow in every heart. They knew the road ahead would be painful and bitter. They were not sure there would be adequate help along this lonely way.
Person 2: (picks up cup): After supper Jesus took a cup of wine. This is the cup of celebration. It is the sign of our union in Christ.
Person 1: Jesus gave thanks and shared the wine with his friends saying, “This is my blood. It is shed for you and for all people. Drink it in memory of me.”
Person 2 (places cup on its side on table): Today there is no wine. The life-blood of physical connection has been spilled. We are not able to look around the table and see the light or the fear in one another’s eyes. Like those first disciples, we have only the intimations of uncertainty in the face of an unknown tomorrow. At this table we determine to hold the awkward brokenness of this time.
Person 1 (tips plate forward): So we hold this plate of emptiness.
Person 2 (picks up cup): We carry this cup of absence.
BOTH: They remind us that today we must look elsewhere for the Presence Jesus promised to his followers. (replace plate and cup on table)
Person 1: Missing the physical presence of those who usually gather in this place, in the absence of voices raised in song and prayer and without the sound of sacred reading, we turn within. We open to that hidden place to which every sacred meal seeks to point.
Person 2: We open our hearts knowing that the Spirit Jesus gave is not bound by bread. It does not reside in wine alone. The wind of this Spirit cannot be locked in a building. This Spirit pours forth upon all the earth. Crossing all barriers, it fills hearts without discrimination.
Person 1: This is the Breath of Life that hovered over the earth before time began. This is the Force that cast stars into the heavens, raised up mountains and poured forth seas.
Person 2: This is the Spirit that breathes life into form and sustains all life in whatever way it may manifest.
BOTH: This Life cannot be defeated; it cannot be diminished, or destroyed.
Person 1: The bread we would have shared had we been together at this table, embodies this Living Presence.
Person 2: The wine we would have shared from the common cup in which we are one, is the Life flowing in our fellowship.
BOTH: As we are unable to gather as a body in this place, we hold the awkwardness of absence.
Person 1: Distance may inhibit our awareness of the flow of Love poured out on the world as Jesus suffered on the cross; but that Love is not diminished.
Person 2: In the midst of the suffering that afflicts the world, we affirm the Love that never dies. We proclaim the deep goodness of God; we give thanks for the Life that sustains us in the absence of Eucharist. We hold the pain of the world’s brokenness with tenderness and compassion.
BOTH: We await with expectation our gathering again around this table of the Lord. Beside pain and uncertainty, we hold confidence and hope.
Person 2: We affirm that we are fed in the deep and secret room of our hearts.
Person 1 (both place right hand on heart): May God’s peace and blessing rest upon us and all the world. May we know the strength of God’s Presence, the friendship of Christ’s love, and the gift of the life-giving Spirit filling all of creation.
BOTH: We go forth to be the food of Christ for a hungry world, to be instruments of healing and love in all of creation. Amen
(both make small bow hands together before chest) BELL X3