An Unexpected Breakfast

By

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.


16 Comments

  1. Breann

    Wow, Pete. I had the exact same experience today. And I came to the same conclusion. What an honor to draw substance from Christ’s body and blood alone.

  2. Greg Smith

    They offered communion. Do most churches do this on Good Friday? — The original communion was a Good Friday meal, Jesus’ last.
    ——- ——– —-
    No disrespect intended… indeed the spiritual Break-Fast and sustenance you received is wonderful…

    However, there is one benefit to liturgy — Maundy Thursday. Jesus’ last meal with the disciples was on Thursday evening not Friday.

    Anglican churches do this service (as do Catholics and Lutherans). If you ever get a chance to go it’s a powerful service which has a full Communion followed by the stripping of the altar and leaving in darkness… Good Friday for most of the Christian church is a day when no communion/Eucharist is celebrated… rather meditations are offered regarding the Cross.

    Glad you received strength for your fast… just wanted to point that out since you asked.

  3. Paula Shaw

    Thanks, Pete. I think it’s awesome that you aloud the Holy Spirit to call you to that particular break-fast. To me, that act of submission on your part shows that you are willing to listen to, and obey God’s direction.
    I so miss the Liturgy. The symbolism, especially during Holy Week, of even the smallest of things in each service is so meaningful to me. I tend to have quite the opposite reaction to the repetition, ritual and ceremony than you. All of it speaks such beauty and life to me.
    Greg, the Anglican church of which I was a member and worship leader for almost 25 years had Communion from the Reserved Sacrament during our 3-hour long Good Friday Services every year. I don’t find it strange to hear it was offered at all. But, I do think a good many Anglican churches don’t partake on Good Friday. All I have to go by are the 2 I’ve attended.
    Pete, if you ever get the chance to attend The Great Vigil of Easter at an Anglican church such as Redeemer in Nashville, it may surprise you. That service is my favorite of the whole year. (It’s also the longest service of the year!) From the Exultet to the Vesting of the Altar, to the lights being raised in the darker than dark nave, to the first Communion of Easter. . . it’s all so incredible and moving. There are some pretty dry Liturgical churches out there where I can imagine this service to be one of the most painful of the year, but I’m thinking that Redeemer is not one of them!
    Anyway, thanks for posting this, Pete. It says a lot to the inner self. . . “nothing but the blood, nothing but the body”.
    Have a wonderful Easter!

  4. Lauren Bombardier

    When I was younger, we attended a certain Episcopal church in East Tennessee, and that is the only church I remember where we followed the traditions of Holy Week. It left quite an impression on me, and to this day I actually look forward to Easter more than I do Christmas. It is, after all, why Christ came to us in the first place.

    I’ve never fasted from Good Friday to Easter, but I may consider it in the future. Thank you.

  5. Peter B

    Thank you, Pete et al, for this very edifying discussion. Growing is good.

    Christ is risen!

  6. Thomas McKenzie

    Hey all,

    I saw Pete last night and it was suggested that I should take him to task for this post. I read his post and have nothing negative to say, of course.

    In reference to the discussion above, the Episcopal Church USA has a prayer book that allows for the taking of communion from the reserve sacrament on Good Friday. However, throughout most of the Anglican world, and throughout most of Christian history as far as I can tell, this is not the practice. In fact, in every Anglican church I have ever been a part of, there is no reserve sacrament in existence on Good Friday. After the Stripping of the Altar on Maundy Thursday, the remaining sacrament is burned. There is, therefore, no Communion to receive from until the Great Vigil of Easter, which ends on Sunday at daybreak.

    Good Friday is one of the traditional corporate fast days of the Church, the other being Ash Wednesday. It is entirely appropriate for the Church as a whole to fast entirely on those two days each year. Other personal fasts are always appropriate, though fasting on Sundays in usually discouraged.

    While I am not a fan of having Communion on Good Friday, we are under grace and not under law. It should be celebrated that the grace of Christ was made manifest to Pete, as it was to everyone who received Communion on that day.

    I’m glad that Pete posted this.

    Thomas+

    (that’s Father Thomas McKenzie, if it matters)

  7. Paula Shaw

    After reading Thomas’ post, I want to clarify that the church where I was worship leader was technically in TEC until 2005 when we left and joined the Anglican Communion of the Southern Cone. . . hence the Good Friday Communion for the Reserved Sacrament. . . there. I thought I should clarify that for some reason.
    🙂

  8. Paula Shaw

    Really. . . “The Southern Cone” is a real . . . well, it’s a geographical area in which a certain group of Anglican churches are under the Bishop, who happens to be Archbishop Gregory Venables. Now, since I am no longer a member of the church I used to attend, I am not up on all of this, but that’s how it was when I was there. . . (and yes, I guess it’s pretty conetastic). When this happened, there was no place for the “displaced Episcopalians” in America to land, so different “overseers” took them into their diocese, which meant that the Americans had bishops in other countries such as Africa or South America. I know lots of things have changed, but like I said, I haven’t kept up with this issue in about 3 years, so what do I know?!
    🙂

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *