The liturgy we use at saint benedict’s table is one that emphasizes that communion is open to the whole people of God regardless of how worthy we perceive ourselves. Each week when we hear “…come if you have much faith or little, have tried to follow or afraid you’ll fail…” it is an acknowledgment that however you view yourself, or others view you, you are welcome to partake. As a church that follows this liturgy week after week the truth of it seems obvious, but it is sometimes good to take a step back and realize how radical an idea this actually is.
The communion table is for everyone regardless of rank or status. That idea in and of itself is radical in its tearing down of social and class barriers. Yet that very tangible and visible levelling is a reflection of the unseen spiritual levelling that takes place at the table. One person comes to the table having since the previous week’s communion failed to follow Christ again and again, while another comes having done all he could to follow Christ. Both partake as equals.
Writing from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Alexander Schmemann makes the comment:
“No one has been “worthy” to receive communion, no one has been prepared for it.”
It is being in Christ that makes one able to partake of the table, not anything that we ourselves have done or can do. Our sin should not prevent us from taking the bread and wine; if anything it should drive us to take a tangible and visible emblem of God’s grace.
This is the grace of God: we can fall into sin and yet still partake of His gifts for us because we are forgiven. Each week before communion we are told that God has mercy upon us; He pardons and delivers us from our sin, and we have peace with Him. With this being true we should not dwell on what we have done, or who we have been in the past, as we walk to the table. When we go to the table we act out what the truth is even if our lives haven’t shown it throughout the week. To quote Schmemann again:
“The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and the moment of truth: here we see the world in Christ, as it really is, and not from our particular and therefore limited and partial points of view.”
We partake as forgiven and true members of Christ’s kingdom. That is the truth of who we are, and that is who the table is for.