Friday, July 21, 2006
Because Ed is a retired minister, we receive a subscription to The Circuit Rider, a magazine that deals with theological and practical issues of the United Methodist Church. Its most recent issue concentrates on the ritual of Communion, The Lord's Supper, or whatever term one wants to use. I was struck by one comment: "Use bread that looks like bread, preferably baked by members of the congregation, and in quantities that speak of grace, generosity, and the joy of a banquet."
When I was growing up, it was cracker pieces and grape juice. That representation gradually evolved into real loaves of bread. (But still with grape juice. We were Methodists, after all.) At one point Ed and I became Episcopalians for a while. During those years, we were given dry little wafers and real wine. I even served on the Altar Guild for a short time. The ladies there taught me how to use a sixth sense to figure out how many people to expect for Commuion the next day, so we could anticipate the correct number of wafers to leave out for the priest to bless. I think it was the highlight of the week for those faithful ladies when their guess came close to the actual number - kind of like using number-picking skills to win the lottery.
When Ed became a minister and we were assigned to various churches, we were thrust from receivers to givers, in that we had to make sure there was enough grape juice (back to the Methodist way) and bread or crackers to go around. You didn't want too much, but you didn't want too little. The Holy Meal was supposed to be a banquet, and who comes to a banquet with the idea of a limited quantity of food? Better to err on the side of abundance. Rationing at Communion was just not acceptable.
As a participant of Communion or any other meal, I am pleased when I see unlimited quantities of food. Not that I eat it all, of course. The fact is that I can't really eat a large quantity of food at one time. I hardly ever get my money's worth at a restaurant buffet, for instance. Still, it gives some degree of satisfaction to see the food there in abundance. Don't worry, folks - there's enough to go around.
As I was reading the Communion article, I thought about our new house, specifically how small it will be. Going from a 4000-square-foot house to a 1500-square-foot house will be quite an adjustment, and not just physically. Emotionally there is something freeing about the idea of abundance. Whether it be space, money, food, time - it means plenty. The Thanksgiving symbol of the cornucopia, the "horn of abundance," is so full of good things that it literally can't contain them and its contents spill out and over.
As I age, I am acutely aware that my abundance of time, though still allotted to me in 24-hour increments, is limited in years. Money is not as plentiful as in the past, and soon our space will be limited also. Certainly we don't use this huge Victorian house - that's why we are trying to sell it - but it has been nice to say to friends and family, "Come on up and visit. We have tons of room for everyone!" Abundance, more than enough, brings a sort of contentment, banishes worry (unless you worry about losing your abundance!), and most of all, allows you to share. For sharing abundance is the most fun of all, isn't it?
I guess this means there is a "down side" to "down size." But, as Ed reminds me, there is abundance and then there is abundance. The root word for abundance means overflowing. Maybe it's time to think in terms of abundance as less a condition of concrete things, and more a condition of abstract things. We will have less space, but we will still have the abundance of love of friends and family, the richness of our precious memories, the plentifulness of our gifts, the bounty of our dreams.
Gotta love that abundance. Pass the bread, please. I assure you, there's plenty to go around.