Communion at the Vatican
By Marilyn Raupp
It was a downpour-wet and gray day. My spirits were even grayer. I had looked forward to this very day each of the ten days we traveled through Venice, Florence, and Tuscany. Here we were, staying on the other side of the wall from Vatican City on Christmas Eve day. Since early adulthood I had enjoyed the magic of Midnight Mass from the Vatican, rushing home from worship at a Lutheran church to turn on the television and sit quietly in the still house. Yes, we had been awed by the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, and the majesty of the ages-old cathedral itself. We only learned that morning, though, that the free admission to the mass, due to the crush of people wanting to attend, was dependent upon one’s having one of the limited tickets. Now I was to be denied the culmination of my dreams for this trip.
My husband insisted on taking a bus into Rome that afternoon, but I insisted I had no interest. It was still raining and gray. I was tired and fighting an infection, as well. Mainly, I was really downcast; I would rest.
On his return, my husband burst into the room. “We have tickets!” he announced. The nuns in the convent where we were staying had had the foresight to procure tickets for all their guests. My spirits were lifted!
At dinner provided by the nuns, I got to meet the two American teenage girls my husband had met while wandering around in Rome. They were high school classmates, one studying in Paris and one studying in Scotland, one Jewish and the other Christian. The two, with hardly any money and probably less sense but a great deal of daring, met and traveled to Rome by train. They had no plans, no contacts, and no place to stay, so my husband brought them back to the convent to see if the nuns could help them. The nuns did help them and even had tickets for the mass for them.
Lights for the television broadcasts broke the darkness of the immense cathedral, but the awesomeness of the event remained. I didn’t think to take my camera to “church,” but the Jewish girl had hers. She got the pictures of the Pope as he passed a mere two rows from us. The Latin, the singing of Christmas hymns, the chanting—all added to the mystery. The greatest mystery, though, was in the Eucharist…Holy Supper… Communion. Thousands of people from all over the world were there to share in this holiest sacramental meal. No questions were asked, no one denied. I watched to see if the Jewish girl would partake, too. She didn’t, but she would have been welcome at that Lord’s Table. It was a true Communal…unifying…meal and deeply profound.
During Lent 2011, we are encouraging the St. Philip the Deacon community to reflect on the Sacrament of Holy Communion — recalling early memories, describing memorable celebrations of Communion, or reflecting on how Communion informs daily life. This post is part of that series. We invite your reflections about Communion, as well. If you would like to submit something for this series, please send it to Pastor Cheryl Mathison at firstname.lastname@example.org.