Many parts, one body

 

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“After you receive the body of Christ, you should return to your pew, kneel down, and pray,” said my second-grade teacher as she prepared our class for our First Holy Communion.  Those moments after receiving the Eucharist are a holy and special time, we were taught, a beautiful time to pray.

As a child, I followed her directions carefully.  Back in my pew after receiving Communion,  I would kneel, hands clasped, eyes usually closed as I mentally ran through a list of things I wanted God to do for me or for people I loved.  (I’d throw in some thank-yous, too, just for balance.)

But now, as an adult, I often find that my post-Communion prayer is something quite different.  Instead of closing my eyes and offering a laundry list of requests, I often keep my eyes open and watch the people filing down the aisle.

Yes, in part, this is a writer’s curiosity at work;  I love to watch people, whether in the airport or at the mall or at church.  But it’s more than that.  I think of my watching as a kind of prayer in and of itself, a way to recognize the many many people who make up the body of Christ.

In the Communion line, I see people I know.  I see people I don’t know.  I see elderly men leaning on canes and newborns carried in parents’ arms.  I see women in tailored clothes and men with tattoos for sleeves.  I see people who are short, tall, thin, broad, male, female, smiling, serious, slow, fast, peaceful, restless, distracted, focused.  I see people whose struggles are written on their faces and people who seem to have no struggles at all, though I know that’s not true, and that everyone in that line has some need they are bringing to God.

And, most of all, I see color,  every skin tone that God made.  I see six continents represented in the communion line, a small world filing down the center aisle and around the sides.  And that feels right to me.  I don’t think I could trust a church where everyone in the pews looks exactly like me.  Such a church would feel incomplete; even wrong, somehow.  But my church – my church with its wonderful wide variety of diverse humanity, speaking different languages and wearing different clothes and eating different foods and yet facing the same human struggles, and finding the same source of solace and love at the end of the communion line – this is the church I believe in.  This is the church I love.

And remembering that?  Often, that’s the best prayer I know.

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