One of my favorite things in my life is preparing the table for the Eucharist on a Saturday night. The other ladies in the Altar Guild talk about getting over early and getting it out of the way. I understand the sentiment, and like all things there are days it is not as convenient or enjoyable as others, but I like to wait. I like to wait until the sun has gone down and everyone has gone home. I like to walk into the dark church. I like to turn on the single light above the altar instead of all the lights in the sanctuary. There is a palpable peace in that room then. There are no crying children, no laughing teenagers, or or chatty ladies. Brian is usually with me, but he finds a chair and a book and leaves me to my work.
When I walk up into the chancel I am acutely aware of where I am and what happens there. This is the place where the greatest things in my life happen. This is where I am fed. This is where I was married. This is where I was confirmed. Even when we are in another building, another city, I will be in the same place. This is a square of earth where men have been admitted to the Holy of Holies. This square of earth, and every other square of earth set aside for this purpose are the place where Christ's presence is particular. There is nothing remarkable about it on Saturday night, but tomorrow Christ will feed all those who call upon him in that place. The bread and wine I prepare will be host to the mysterious presence of Christ.
Tonight, I found myself thinking about the women going to the tomb. There was a ceremony to what they were doing, they knew the supplies they needed and the order in which to proceed. I gather my supplies and place everything properly, as I get more comfortable with the process it becomes like a dance. This ceremony held special significance because of their love of Jesus; it is the same devotion that has brought me here. There was a very practical aspect to their work, a body must be prepared properly. I take a moment to look at the calendar and decide how many people I think will be in church. Is it a holiday, or are the kids away on a trip? We want to have enough bread and wine, but not too much. I feel as if I am taking part in a tradition started late one Saturday night 2000 odd years ago.
I've gone to the church on Saturday nights when things just weren't going well. There was one night that I walked through that door and all the tears I had been holding back for days came out. I just knelt in the dark with my head on the rail and cried and prayed, mostly cried. I pulled myself together and started my dance. When I was done I had thought through the problem and had some semblance of an answer. There were no voices or visions, just peace, enough peace to recognize what I should have already known.
The funny thing is, I hate silence, it makes my uncomfortable. I feel like silence is an empty chasm that I might fall into. The silence in the church is different. It is full, like a feather bed, its warm and soft and all around me. It might be selfish, but I wish that I could be the Altar Guild all alone, so that I could be guaranteed that moment every week.