As I shared with these precious souls, I was reminded of the power of liturgy. Typically, I use a "Great Thanksgiving" from our Book of Worship, or one I've written or adapted, and the laity follow along with the printed liturgy found on pages 15-16 in our Hymnal. When sharing the sacrament in a hospital or nursing home, as an extension of our congregational celebration, I usually use the service found on pages 7-10 of the "pocket edition" of our Book of Worship.
As I led the man and his wife in the liturgy, the power of the ritual took on a significance far greater than my own eloquence (or lack thereof) could provide. Early in my ministry, I often simply uttered informal words of institution as I shared in "out of sanctuary" settings, but I've learned that disciples who are sick, suffering, or feeling isolated are reassured and comforted through the familiar words of a more formal liturgy. Liturgy, in great measure, forms our discipleship. In times of need, we will likely not remember what the pastor preached about six months earlier, but we may well remember such oft repeated phrases as...
"Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again" or
"Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen."Certainly, the two souls I shared with in the hospital on Sunday could relate to and draw strength from these words, which, because of liturgical repetition, they know so well.
I sometimes fear that in our efforts to be "current" or "contemporary", we too quickly reject the important liturgical practices which have formed God's people for centuries. As Pope Paul VI wrote, "Liturgy is like a strong tree whose beauty is derived from the continuous renewal of its leaves, but whose strength comes from the old trunk, with solid roots in the ground." A balance is needed between the depth of traditional liturgy and 21st century notions of worship and practice.
At any rate, Sunday's excursion was a good reminder for me, for which I thank God.
What are your practices regarding Eucharistic celebration? When you celebrate the sacrament with dear folks in hospitals or personal care homes, how do you do it? How can I be more faithful in my own pastoral journey?