Most of my adult life I've tried to grasp the meaning of Communion, or the Eucharist: the sacrament of taking the body and blood of Christ. I want to know what it means for me, to me, what I feel about it, what I should get from the sacrament.
At one point I tried to understand this mystery by pondering it from my father's point of view. Maybe this is because he was High Anglican, and they take Communion far more often than the United Church of Canada in which my mother and my siblings and I were raised. Or maybe it's because I know that one of the few times my dad cried was when his priest drove an hour to see him in hospital when Dad was very ill, and brought him Communion.
But I never considered what Communion means to my mother, until last Sunday. We took her to church for the first time in months. Mom is too frail to stand up for hymns or go to the front of the church for the bread and wine - which is actually juice. A server brought the elements to her. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that there was more than the usual amount of conversation ("This is the body of Christ broken for you. This is the blood of Christ shed for you.") happening between them.
When we returned to the pew, Mom was still holding the piece of bread. She looked at it, then whispered, "I'm not sure if I'm supposed to eat it." It broke my heart to see this latest example of her confused state, to know that she'd lost, at least for the moment, the thread of something important to her that she's been doing all her life.
And so the new question I'm left with is does Communion work, is it effective in whatever it's supposed to do, be, and give, if the participants don't understand? This is a surprisingly reassuring idea. Thanks be to God for illumination that comes in mysterious ways.