I was a Eucharistic Minister last night at Mass. I love being Eucharistic Minister. If you really believe in what it is — the body and blood, substance, essence, and being of Christ given for my life — then how can it be anything but a joyous thing to give to people? I smile at people when they take Eucharist from me. My smile is to say “Rejoice! It’s…” which then gets added to my standard line “The Body of Christ.” Or my smile sometimes says, “Hey, cheer up! It’s…” before “The Blood of Christ.” I try to look each person in the eye before I give them Eucharist. I am thankful to be allowed to be there at a moment of such intimacy with God. And I hope in some way that my presence and my mindful ministry might somehow enhance the meaning of that moment for the communicant. Getting to bless the babies and small children is, like, a total bonus. Did I say I love being Eucharistic minister?
Except for one thing. I miss taking Eucharist with my wife.
We go up together. We hold our hosts until the other is ready and we take ours simultaneously. Sometimes a marriage-hip priest or deacon will hold up two hosts and hand them to us at the same time. But when we take Eucharist together, it is an extra-special blessing. As a married person, I know a bit about giving my body, my blood, my essence, substance, and being for the good of another. I can know a bit of what it is to be Christ by being married. (You have to know a bit of marriage theology for that not to sound horribly presumptuous, sorry.)
And so Heidi and I stand before the altar and simultaneously reinvite Christ into our lives and marriage. We take Christ up on his offer so that we may renew our own to each other. And I miss that when I stand on the altar and hand out eucharist. It’s a difficult choice. Both roles involve ministering Christ, each having it’s own distinct blessing. The abundance of grace involved with ministering to a community vs. the intensively intimate journey of perfecting one’s ministry to another human being. Those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but when it comes to ministering eucharist, they are.
I have a deacon friend who attends two masses every weekend. One to be deacon and one to worship with his wife. But he has to go somewhere they don’t know him ’cause if they knew a deacon was in the pews, they’d want him up on the altar and he wouldn’t get to sit with his wife. When they find him out, he and his wife go to another parish. Some day they’ll run out of alternative parishes and will have to find another way to worship together.
This is my only real objection to the concept of married priests — the moments of mutual exclusion that would inevitably turn up. Someone would have to be slighted, however slightly.