I've been taking communion for a real long time. When I was little I watched the plate of broken saltines crackers pass by and wondered why we ate them at church. Saltine crackers were my favorite crackers and were the main reason I looked forward going to my Grandmas, that and the blackberries. My parents told me I shouldn't eat the crackers because I liked them, they told me I should eat the crackers when I understood something I didn't understand.
When I was old enough to understand I liked saltines much less. I've taken communion countless times with varied results. I remember tearing up once as I dipped a papery wafer in grape juice because God loved me, but I also remember drinking a little cup of creamer when there wasn't enough grape juice to go around and joking about Jesus' blood tasting like Irish Cream. I had my first taste of alchohol taking communion, nearly threw up. It's the only religious ritual I participate in regularly and that throws me off a bit.
I have other rituals, I think most people do, but none of these are as lofty: like when I turn on the faucet after I pee so people think I'm washing my hands, or checking my alarm clock every night exactly three times. These may be stretching the definition of ritual, but stretching is good, it's how we grow. I remember when I played football, before games every player would hit a particular sign as we ran onto the field. I think the sign was something about the field being closed at dusk, but everyone hit it before games. It had absolutely nothing to do with playing well, it wasn't even superstitious, we just did it. It was a completely empty ritual.
These empty rituals scare me because they make me feel like an actor. When I take communion, I don't want to get into character. It's difficult not to try and get into character for church, everyone dresses nice, stained glass and funny things we Christians have been doing for a millenia. I don't like putting up a front so I often wear sweat pants and old t-shirts. This gets me through most of the service, but when it comes time to take communion I often find myself putting on face that tells people I'm thinking very hard, because this means a lot to me, I'm spiritual.
Right now, I want to write a solution. Something sweeping and beautiful. Tying bits of my experience together to make sense of my struggles. Unfortunately, I am, as of yet, unaware of any secret solutions. The answers, if you want to call them that, I've found are frustrating. Faith is more a decision than a feeling. At times it can feel like I'm just acting, like I'm just practicing a script made up for me, but faith ought not be dependent and feelings, comfort or vague, inarticulate doubt. If the connection with God I am looking for is a warm feeling in my stomach, than my faith will be either empty and bitter or a superstition.
My parents were right, when I eat that wafer, and drink that juice I have to understand what communion is about. It's not an empty ritual. I need to remember why we Christians get together and act kind of strange for an hour each Sunday.
On the night he was betrayed he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
It's about remembering. The feelings will come when they come. Sometimes I have to be content singing terrible songs, with people who are tone-deaf, eating stale wafers with bad grape juice and sitting through long, meandering, convoluted sermons. I have to be content because it is about more than good songs and tasty crackers: its about something that I couldn't accomplish on my own and the person who accomplished it for me, namely Jesus. And if the pictures I've seen are accurate, which I think is a good bet, he's about the coolest cracker ever.