Midweek Eucharists: Ordinary Holiness
Tuesday 7:00 am; Wednesday 5:30 pm; Thursday 12:05 pm
St. John’s does the grand and glorious so well. With the large and elegant worship space, the majestic music and lively acoustics, the pipe organ, choir, and various instrumentalists, St. John’s is able to enjoy on a regular basis the kind of worship associated with the largest of cathedrals. And the fact that we are so accustomed to these grander celebrations affords us the luxury of comfort and ease in festive worship that adds greatly to the flow of worship. While most places only occasionally attempt such celebrations, St. John’s pulls out all the stops every Sunday. Even most of our weddings and funerals are “big” services. We know how to do that well.
And then there is the subtle power of our three weekday Eucharists. Each and every week, the Eucharist is celebrated at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 12:05 p.m. on Thursdays. These Communion services are usually held in the Chapel with no music and last about 30 minutes. The number of those in attendance varies but often less than a dozen people are in the congregation. There have even been times when only the assigned Altar Guild member and the priest were there. Occasionally I am asked why we commit ourselves to such services when relatively few attend. The answer lies in what these Communion services offer for those who are present and those absent alike.
For those who are present, there is a clear and tangible reward. Hearing the scripture lessons, having time for reflection, praying quietly, and receiving the sacrament, are enriching and empowering acts of devotion. Some who attend would attest that these services are their lifeblood and could not imagine getting through the week without them. For me as a priest these regular Communion services form a rhythm which has shaped me powerfully. Simply the fact that I must prepare some comments on the scripture requires some study and prayer on my part. And then standing at the altar and reading the prayer of consecration throughout the various seasons keeps the humbling sacrifice of our Lord in front of me. If I forget what God has done for me and his world, I am quickly reminded. This has provided a surer foundation for my faith over the years and I cherish the duty of celebrant. On Thursdays the Communion service is in the context of the Healing liturgy where prayers are offered specifically for those who have need for healing. As people kneel and state a need for God’s healing power, I am shown the Lord’s grace in bringing about deep and abiding peace. The intimacy of these Eucharists attests to God’s strength and love. It is simply not possible to attend these weekly Communion services and leave thinking God is removed from our daily lives. His presence is clear.
And then there is the benefit for those who are absent. The Church has long proclaimed the power of prayer. We pray for others because we know it has some effect. Mothers and fathers pray for their children. Monks and nuns commit themselves to a life of prayer for the world. At each service of worship we pray for those who are sick, for those who have died, for our public officials, for the leaders of the world, for peace and unity. We pray not so that we will feel better but so that those for whom we pray will be transformed. Very often we do not even know exactly what we are praying for but we lift up our concerns to the Lord.
Just as it is vital that this community of faith live in the trust that each Sunday worship will be offered, it is also important that we know the Word and Sacrament is being offered regularly during the week. It is always here, available to you whenever you need it. It is always here, available to any and everyone, even if you never attend.
Our larger services always impress upon me the great power of the Lord. These smaller ones show me just how deep his love is for his people. He is constant in his love, not just showing up when the big stuff happens. He is always there waiting for us to meet him.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.