Every Celebrant of the Eucharist has just a little different way of leading the liturgy and our job, as participants, is to follow their lead. Some churches have only one priest and worshipers get really used to that person’s cadence and pace. With several priests on our staff, worshipers at St. John’s are more accustomed to things being a little different each week. During Lent, on Wednesday nights, our guest preachers preside at the altar and each of them leads in a different way. Occasionally I’ll get a little irritated at the way another priest presides, thinking they’re going too fast or too slow, and the difference distracts me. Sometimes, because of those differences, I’ll hear something in the liturgy I’ve never really heard before.
Some Celebrants read the Lord’s Prayer faster than others. Some make use of the potential times for silence during the liturgy while others just pass over that potential pause. Some use the silence longer than others. Some celebrants genuflect while some don’t. Some elevate the elements at certain times allowing us to see the bread and the chalice. Others just touch the vessels and leave them on the altar. Each person administering communion does it a little differently. The Eucharistic Liturgy is remarkably consistent yet it changes with each Celebrant. They set the tone and we follow.
Priests are notorious critics of other priests. We have our way of doing things and tend to think that anyone who leads the liturgy otherwise is doing it wrong. Having someone different lead the liturgy on a regular basis, however, helps dissolve those critical thoughts. What has developed in me, over the years, is a sense of patient curiosity. I know everyone leads in a different way so now it’s easier for me just to relax and let them set the tone however they choose. It’s made me realize that, while I have my own tendencies, I lead a little differently each time I celebrate. One of the values of going back and forth between Rite I and Rite II is that they inform each other. The different wording is complementary and helps me hear things more deeply. The same is true with Celebrants.
One of the wonders of the Liturgy is that we show up as a congregation and are called on to participate throughout. We respond, we stand or sit or kneel, we sing and pray, we reach out our hands and receive the Eucharist, we process into the world with the call to serve. We work, as a congregation, as hard as the Celebrant does. Another wonder of the Liturgy is that it is chosen for us. We are asked to participate but are not in charge ourselves. The congregation doesn’t pick out the hymns or the Eucharistic Prayers or the particular form of the Prayers of the People. We show up and go with what is assigned to us.
Every time we go through the Liturgy, we get repeated little choices. Will we gratefully receive the choices made for us? Will we follow the lead of the Celebrant and appreciate the little differences each one brings? Will we assume that the choices made are intentional and purposeful? Or will we just get stuck in our preferences and remain at a distance in a critical spirit?
As someone who likes to be in charge, I now find myself more often as a participant in the Liturgy than its leader. That’s been very good for me. It gives me a chance, on a regular basis, to follow instead of lead. Following the liturgy for me is a bit like riding in the passenger seat of a car. It’s easy to think the driver is not doing the job correctly. But following also allows me to see some things that I can’t really notice when I’m driving. As a participant in the liturgy, if I can get past the critical thoughts, I can arrive at a place of awe and wonder. When Candice or Jamie or Deonna celebrate the Eucharist, I am struck with how careful and intentional each one of them is. They’re easy to trust because they’re all so competent and the Eucharist means a great deal to each of them. As I trust them to lead, something in my heart opens.
Every day we participate in an unfolding Eucharistic Liturgy. We awaken and the day is assigned to us. There are things we look forward to. There are things we might choose to be a little different if we were calling the shots. We are not in charge of our days. But we are asked to participate, to fulfill our roles, to pay attention to the pace and cadence of the various events we go through. When I follow faithfully and trust the Celebrant of life with my heart, a sense of awe and wonder emerges. When I look for all the things in the day that I think should be different, I distance myself from goodness. So how will I enter this day?
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Events Around the Corner
Wednesdays in Lent – March 14- The Rev. Seth Olson
Youth Groups make Palm Crosses – March 18, 5:00 pm
Vestry – March 19
Wednesdays in Lent – March 21 – The Rev. Donald Fishburne
Palm Sunday – Procession of Palms and Passion Narrative – March 25
Holy Week Eucharists – Daily at 12:05 pm
Good Friday Liturgy – 12:05 pm
Good Friday Stations of the Cross – 6:00 pm
Easter Vigil – March 31 at 7:05 pm
Easter Day Eucharists – 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am
Awaken – Community wide Easter Day Celebration at Biscuits Stadium at 5:00 pm
Awaken – A Community Wide Easter Day Celebration
April 1 at 5:00 pm
The Rector is helping lead a community wide Easter Day Communion Service at the Biscuits Stadium at 5:00 pm and all parishioners are invited to attend. Our hope is to gather Christians from various denominations and ethnic backgrounds to celebrate our commonality of faith in the midst of all the differences our society emphasizes. The liturgy will consist of prayers, scripture reading, hymns, and receiving Communion. Join us as we seek to break down barriers and build relationships of hope.