I attended my very first mass today. I went back to the Grotto, where during summertime, Sunday mass is held outdoors. It was standing room only & I tried to be inconspicuous. This was difficult since I seemed to tower over the Asians & Latinos who had started to crowd in around me. No matter. I stood reverently & compared the order of service to a Canadian mass I had been watching online over the last couple weeks. Some things were different, but many were the same. I knew the priests were going to show up in green vestments because its Ordinary time. I knew when to respond & with what phrases. I even knew when to cross myself most of the time. While I was not an active participant, I was happy that I seemed to be getting the basics down. Then came the Eucharist (communion). I could not partake since I'm not a Catholic- yet. So I remained in the back & continued watching.
It all seemed very undramatic as people streamed up the aisles to get their wafer & a sip from the chalice... I found myself considering the idea of transubstantiation- that is, the belief that the bread & wine truly become the Body & Blood of Christ in the moment. It actually began to make sense to me, though I can't explain how or why. Its as if I had a passing glimpse of something I couldn't quite identify (but I knew I had seen... "something"). The service had prepared them to "do this in remembrance" of Christ & it appeared they believed they were truly partaking of His Body & Blood. The place was solemn, reverent. They weren't only experiencing communion with Christ & each other, but with countless other Catholics around the world as well. That's pretty powerful stuff.
When I partake of communion in my own church, I try to imagine the "real presence" of Christ, but my focus tends to shift to the tiny bits of cracker left clinging to the back of my throat. I don't feel like I'm communing with anyone or anything in the moment. I'm simply performing a ritual. As crass as this may sound, half the time I feel like I've forgotten what it is I'm trying to remember about Christ! Communion has been empty for me- until now. Until now, I don't think I've desired it more.