I don’t pay a lot of attention to liturgical observances. I’m one of those folks for whom repetition, ritual, and ceremony are generally detractors from my ability to enter a state of worship or spiritual reflection. I know, I know, I love Lewis’s arguments for liturgy as a trainer of the mind and spirit, and he was a lot smarter than I’ll ever be. But still, for better or worse, it’s just not my thing.
I have two exceptions of note. The first, of course, is Communion. I began observing the second about ten years ago. I know others do it but I don’t know whether there’s any sort of official observance. I simply decided one year that I’d fast from Good Friday after lunch until Communion on Easter morning and I’ve done it every year since. I’ve grown to look forward to it. It provides me with a gnawing reminder of the hours that Christ spent in the grave and I’m always hungry, spiritually and physically, for Communion come Sunday.
So today I ate a nice, big lunch in anticipation of the fast ahead and went on my way as usual. Then I ran into a problem. I attended the Good Friday service at my church and something happened that I hadn’t seen before. They offered communion. Do most churches do this on Good Friday? I don’t know. So there I sat, wanting Communion, and yet not wanting to break my symbolic fast.
My first reaction was something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not doing that! I’m fasting and I can just wait until Sunday morning.” And there I sat.
It really began to work on me as I watched others walk to the table. The original communion was a Good Friday meal, Jesus’ last. How could I possibly sit and ponder the awesome event being memorialized and refuse the remembrance enacted before me? Should I sit in the shadows hungry and self-righteous, or was my place at the feast.
If I joined the meal and continued my fast from that holy moment on, then in some measure I’d be sustained throughout the remainder of my brief famine solely by the blood and body of Christ–not in remembrance or symbolic spiritual sustenance, but in real, corporeal hunger. Nothing but the blood. Nothing but the body. How rich a feast was this before me and how necessary? And how precious once again come Easter morning?
So I had a literal break-fast. I took my place at the table. And now I go my way assured that Christ alone sustains me, in every way possible, until the morning of his glad return.
Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he’s the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.