How to get more out of Communion

I feel kind of silly posting a tip for religious fulfillment as if it were just another tip for better living, but I did learn this from a bishop (so it’s sort of official!) and it really has made a big difference in the way I experience Communion and maybe even in the way God guides me for days afterward.

I’m an Episcopalian, and although my congregation is small, the process of receiving Communion often feels lengthy, even a little tedious.  It’s easy for my mind to start wandering while I’m waiting for my turn to walk up to the altar, waiting for a space to open up for me to kneel, waiting for the priest to come by with the bread, waiting for the chalice-bearer to come by with the wine.  Of course I always tried to maintain my focus or, when I’d failed to do that, re-focus on Jesus at the actual moment of receiving the bread and wine.  But I felt bad about how often and how much I was distracted.

I noticed, too, that because I had just confessed my sins and been forgiven for them, at Communion time I often found myself thinking about how I could do better going forward (although I was now off the hook for having done it before, I was strategizing to avoid doing it again) or about somebody else’s actions that had led to my sin (having taken responsibility for my choice to respond sinfully, I was now hoping the other party would repent for his/her role in the situation and maybe even that God would nudge that person into realizing it was all his/her fault).  This was not constructive or peaceful.  Sometimes I even got into criticizing myself for thinking that way and feeling like I didn’t deserve Communion and ought to go back through a few more cycles of Confession until this whole repentance and forgiveness thing really “took” better.

A few years ago, our bishop was visiting our parish, and in his sermon he recommended something he, personally, had been doing for years:

As you receive the bread, think,

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me.

As you receive the wine, think,

Help me to love and serve others for you.

It was so simple and clear that my first reaction was, “What a wonderful way to teach my child how to think about Communion!”  I did remind Nicholas of it just before Communion and again each Sunday for a while.  But in retrospect, duh, the bishop was speaking to a congregation of mostly adults; it was not just advice for children!

At any rate, I did try it myself, and it was so effective that I have done it every single time since.  I do still sometimes lose my focus while standing in line, but I can get it right back with that first sentence.  All that clutter in my mind about what I should do next, what I would have done if only she hadn’t, what I could do if only he wouldn’t–

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me.
Help me to love and serve others for you.

Now I’m looking past the clutter at the big picture: I am loved, and all I need to do is love, and I have help doing it.  Everything will work out somehow.  The main thing is love.

It’s also very useful for me, in these two simple sentences, to make myself say thanks (remember that there’s always something that is going right) and ask for help.  Other prayers we say during the service do these things, too, but when we’re all praying together it feels less personal.  I need to tap right into my individual deep gratitude and my individual need to ask for help, accept help, notice the help I’m getting.

Depending on exactly what is going on in my mind, sometimes I use slightly different words:

Thank you, Jesus, for taking care of me.
Help me to notice others taking care of me for you.

Thank you, Jesus, for trusting me.
Help me to trust myself, trust others, and trust you.

It works for me!  Check out Works-for-Me Wednesday to see what’s working for other people.

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2 thoughts on “How to get more out of Communion

  1. Pingback: The Element Bearer « The Earthling's Handbook

  2. Pingback: Sunday shenanigans | The Earthling's Handbook

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