“Mommy, what is he holding up?” The prayerful gathering collectively giggled mid-way through the Eucharistic Prayer and after a brief pause the priest responded, “Good question!” and moved on. Moments later during the Post Communion Prayer the same verbal young lad proclaimed, “Mommy, I want more of that bread!” I whispered to the boy, “Don’t we all!”I grew up in wheat country and I am very familiar with the process it takes to grow the main ingredient in bread. I also grew up with a father who loved to make fresh baked bread. So likewise, I understand what it takes to bake fresh bread.
I was also raised during the time in the Episcopal Church when young people did not receive Holy Communion until after they were confirmed. It was with incredible expectation I received Communion for the first time on the night I was confirmed – truly a transformative moment. That moment I still carry with me every time I participate in the Eucharistic experience.
While I could give you a good solid incarnational Eucharistic Biblically-sound theological response to the little boy’s question, “Mommy, what is it?” as he watched the priest elevate the bread… I know it would be completely inadequate.
What I can articulate is that I am endlessly drawn to the Presence of Jesus that is made known to me in the breaking of the bread. It is a presence that both leaves me completely satisfied and yet like the little boy, leaves me wanting more. It is as Archbishop Rowan Williams suggested in another context, “Only the truly hungry can smell fresh baked bread a mile away.”
I know what it takes to grow and to bake bread. I also know our theological understanding of Holy Communion. But what I know even more deeply is that I am transformed every time I am a part of the Eucharistic meal.
The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior
Bishop, Episcopal Church in Minnesota