It was January 2002, the weekend before my 2nd semester of college began. It was the beginning of my acceptance of a priestly vocation and I was sitting in a room at a Church 5 hours away from home, further from college. A priest, whom I’ve known for years and love and respect, said that he planned to continue celebrating Eucharist “until I can no longer elevate the Host.”
In the moment I knew three things. This was like no other position on retirement I’d ever heard. I had no understanding off what he meant. This was absolutely true and a visceral reality.
I’ve had a brief vacation over the last week. The timing was found where my need to rest (after the moving and moving and learning a new Church, Diocese, city, and country) met the schedule of the Diocese and Church. I was pulled a bit thin by the time my fist day of vacation came.
I took time to read, walk my dog, visit museums, go to the movies, clean my house, sit on my couch and watch television. I was on vacation for Sunday and the midweek services.
It was good to be gone and it is good to be back. Seven days is just long enough to rest and not so long that I am playing massive catch-up with messages. Still, I spent the first few days back out of rhythm with my usual week. And I didn’t quite know how to get back.
I know that this is normal. It doesn’t matter when my time away ends or how I set things up, the first few days are a little off.
I find my rhythm after my first service back.
This is I when hear my wise friend’s voice: “until I can no longer elevate the Host.”
I have been ordained and lived my way into that sacramental and elusive truth. There is something about who I am, how I am connected to my role as priest that is grounded and grounds me through celebrating the Eucharist. Through the sharing of Christ’s body and blood with my community.
“Until I can no longer elevate the Host.”
This is what I know now about this statement. It’s not about retirement; it’s about sacrament, relationship, and vocation. I can explain it no better than I first heard it. It is viscerally true.
And it was good and right and joyous to be back, elevating the Host and celebrating with my community, this morning.
Picture used via Creative Commons, Alan Creech, Flickr