I have avoided Communion every time I’ve had an opportunity to receive it, because I have celiac disease. As anyone with that affliction or even a mild gluten intolerance knows, the slightest bit of wheat will send us running to a bathroom within 20 minutes, & to pain meds & antidepressants within days. It is hard for even those of tremendous faith to get past the fear of crapping themselves dead in church.
A while ago a dear friend of mine (who also happens to be a staunch atheist) questioned the trend in Italy to go to gluten free wafers. “If the wafer becomes the Body of Christ as it passes the lips, why worry about gluten?” I explained the above, that how once you’ve felt gluten tearing up your small intestine & thrusting every last particle of food in your body rapidly toward your descending colon, faith wavers. What if there’s a crumb on your lips that didn’t transform? What if your faith was recently tested and wrung & you kneel at the railing utterly convinced that your bowels will let loose in front of the whole congregation? “What if what if what if” is the enemy of faith &, of course, the mantra of the celiac sufferer.
But I took Communion on Holy Saturday, kinda by accident.
I went up to the railing of my new church with the intent of receiving just a blessing. That’s what I normally do. Christened in the Church of England, I am welcome to take Anglican Communion but, you know, celiac.
When the bishop approached, she had the wafer, & I don’t know what happened. This was the first church I’d been to since I was a small child where I felt the presence of Christ. I opened my mouth, & she gave me the bread. My sister, next to me, shot me a concerned look.
As I shuffled back to my pew, I swallowed & simply said, in my mind, “This is the body of Christ, washed down by the blood of Christ. I’m fine.”
Twenty minutes later, I was still fine.
Two hours later, I was still fine.
The next day, at Easter service, I wept during a moment of silence after the liturgy. Christ’s sacrifice was so great; who am I to begrudge this sacrament? I just about ran up to the rail on Easter, so eager to receive Communion. I had an hour drive out to see my Mum after, & I didn’t care. I wanted that wafer & that wine.
And I never got sick.
On the drive I pondered this. Is my faith in Christ so strong now that gluten has no effect on me? “Don’t be stupid,” said my sceptical mind. “They’re obviously gluten free wafers.” But then I had the thought “Does it matter? I accepted the wafer without question, & either way my faith was rewarded.” And it will continue to be. There is no one on the planet more fired up about Communion than this girl.
As the radio blasted “It’s got to be real” I laughed, car danced to ridiculous disco, & told God I loved Him & my new church. Then “Hot Blooded” came on & I was forced to remember that embarrassing Bones episode.