And I wasn’t even IN Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
From the moment of my ordination I have attempted to practice a Eucharistic piety modeled on the Reformer’s, Dr. Chemnitz’s, and Father Fenton’s (before he swam the Bosphorus infused Thames of pre 1054).
My actual body language, gestures, motions, genuflections, elevations, tempo and speed have all demonstrated to any parishioner present that I believe what we say that WE believe, teach, and confess. Since I believe Christ’s words in Mathew 26.26. I have always acted like it (to my own vocational hurt—but that’s for another time).
So the sin lies not in the heart but in the brain. That is not to say there was no sin, just that I want to justify myself because the shame still lingers.
Uzzah too may have blundered with more instinctive ignorance than shiftless indifference, but he was nonetheless fried like a KFC drumstick.
Our church like many rural parishes which had hitherto eschewed modernism’s “softness” had finally installed air-conditioning. This was good because the heat wave was intense though brief. But because the “powers that were” had as much of the proverbial Scot as the predictable Deutsch encircling their hearts, use of said A/C was more for the big events (funerals, weddings, VBS) than for Sunday’s Divine Service. Oh, the “air” was on but the vents were not designed for chancel benefit.
“Here use this big floor fan, Pastor” they had said the year before. I was thankful for small favors, and I did. The fan was wonderful and effective. You remember those big square fans that can be put into a window-frame or set on the floor of your upstairs apartment? They were a tad noisy but did move some air. As I refused to un-vest, or minimum-vest, or just wear a purple Izod polo and Dockers like some of the other pastors in the district, even with some air moving around the chancel, it was uncomfortably warm. I sweat like the fat boy in 7th grade gym class (just fact, so no PC whining comments) so I decided to angle the fan a bit more directly onto me where I would be standing at the lectern for the pericopes. While it worked perfectly in giving me some breeze, I neglected to “file it away in my brain” that it had been a page 5 “unding.” You can see where this is going, so I’ll wrap it up quickly.
The following week at the voters assembly-permitted (Burgomeister approved) Mass, (twice a month like Glashutte—precision clockwork) all went well until the “first table” of communicants approached the rail. I turned in my memorized & ingrained “Dean Reuning-taught” way towards the people only to have the fan—WHERE THE HECK DID THAT WIND GUST COME FROM—catch my paten like a slap in the face from Satan. About 20 consecrated Hosts flew up and off the paten onto the sanctuary floor right in front of the Epistle horn of the altar. It was almost like "slow-motion" in a bad Michael Bay movie, or when the young boy on his first date clips his glass of Coke at the restaurant with his his teen-age elbow only to helplessly watch it fall dreamlike to the floor: "Noooooo..." This is no hyperbole, I was mortified…at myself. I didn’t want to die by Elias-invoked fire from on high, but I thought I was the biggest, clumsiest, and dimmest ass that had EVER officiated at Mass. I of course remembered the famous story of what Blessed St. Martin of Wittenberg did when some of the Blood of Our Lord spilled onto the floor (I can only pity the pastor who, like me, would try his best to duplicate THAT when so many sanctuaries are covered in nasty carpets)
I quickly bent down and as reverently as one CAN, picked up the Body of our Lord and placed all the Hosts back on the paten. I then gently slid them all back into an opened extra purificator on the altar and covered them. I resumed the Sacrament by re-consecrating additional Hosts for the requisite number of parishioners and finished the Mass. But on that Sunday, before exiting the chancel to greet the people, I bowed at the altar and carried the purificator ensconced Hosts directly into the adjoining sacristy where I reverently consumed them (all the while cursing myself for stupidity and lackadaisical practice, as well as having the foresight of a crypto-Calvinist). If this same horror would happen now, years later, I would have consumed all of the Hosts right then and there within the "borders of the distribution."
I thought then, and I do think now, that it was sin!
I thought then, and I do think now, that it was sin!
And I am so thankful too that I was not on Ark-of-The-Covenant duty that fateful day in 2 Samuel 6. I am overjoyed that Our Lord knows how inadequate any of us are to truly laud, honor, and serve Him the way we should.
I made a resolution that day and I have kept it. Oh, to be sure, I have resolved to ever more carefully prepare for all exigencies, and I alway err on the side of reverential caution. But my other resolution has also never been broken. I will never, ever, again, use an open, flat, semi-beveled, and unsafe (unsafe for an ape like me with the digital dexterity of a Parkinson’s patient with prosthetics) paten to distribute the Body of Christ Jesus.
I have repented to be sure, but even now, years later, well....the very logorrea of this post shows that the memory still burns and chafes.
Thank you Lord for ciboria.