With my priesting less than 2 months away, my incumbent and I have begun conversations about - and practice for - celebrating the Eucharist. We had one such conversation this morning.
We talked through the Eucharistic prayer in situ, exploring the theology, the liturgy, the drama, the language, and more! My inquisitive nature led me to ask lots and lots of questions, without realising that I was focusing largely on practical questions. Not that this is a bad thing to do, of course - there are a great many practical things to think about when leading people in worship, and particularly so in the Eucharist - but I had become so focused on the practical aspects that I hadn't really thought about what I was actually preparing to do.
That is, until we came to the line, "We break this bread to share in the body of Christ." At that point, as I held up and broke an (unconsecrated) wafer, it began to register with me what I was doing. My incumbent talked with me about the significance of this particular moment in the liturgy - we break the bread as we look out on a congregation full of broken people - as we are ourselves.
We see the brokenness of the lives of people whom we as priests are ministering to. We know who is broken by bereavement. We know who is dealing with broken relationships. We know who is facing the brokenness of unemployment. We know the brokenness of our own lives. We know that, as priests, we will be broken at points in this ministry to which we have been called.
And in all this, we raise the paradox of Christianity - that healing and wholeness is found, not in power and glory, but in the brokenness of Jesus Christ upon the cross, visible in the breaking of the sacrament. We as priests offer this healing and wholeness to a broken world on behalf of God. In a very real way, just as Moses stood in the gap between the people of Israel and God, so we stand in the gap between the congregation and God, for whom many of the former feel is somehow unapproachable, because of things in their lives which they think of as being 'unforgiveable'. (This last point may be peculiar to the sort of parish in which I am Assistant Curate, but somehow I don't believe it is).
As we talked this through (and believe me, I am far from finished reflecting on this conversation), I was overwhelmed as to the awesomeness of the responsibility and privilege that God is calling me to. And so, perhaps for the first time, I am beginning to be aware of just how different it will be to preside at the Eucharist in comparison with leading other acts of worship. If any priests who read this have words of wisdom to share on this matter - and if you can remember preparing for and celebrating your first Eucharist - I would greatly value reading your comments.
For me, there is much to reflect upon over the next few weeks!