Today was the last day our church family will enjoy the presence of our Father Joseph at the altar; he is moving to another church - fortunately one still in town, so perhaps we will still see him and his family now and then. We missed church last week and so were unprepared for this; it wasn't until the end of the liturgy, when the church gave Father Joseph three rousing verses of God Grant You Many Years, and Father John our archpriest started to cry, that we realized what was up. As Husband and I wiped away a few tears of our own, I thought about the beauty of watching this family of ours eat together - or rather, take communion - each week. This Sunday we were up in the balcony: the perfect place to watch the throngs of people gather at the chalice (or chalices, in the case of our rather large church) each week. Some with babies in arms, others with arms crossed firmly across their bodies, they each tilt back their head a bit, bend a knee and receive Christ Himself each week. All from the same tiny spoon, and somehow there is always enough, even when the church is filled with people standing from one side to the other as it was today.
We are still in the midst of joining this family officially, although they have treated us as their own from the first. When we are one day down in the throng, waiting to be given that beautiful, holy food, I will miss - a little - the view from the balcony. The sight of the crowds of people, quietly and gracefully coming forth to taste and see Him, is a balm to my spirit. So have Christians gathered and ate together for so long, and in those moments all of them throughout the ages seem to be there with us, part of that family that will last beyond eternity.
"... Not unto judgment nor condemnation, be my partaking of thy Holy Mysteries, oh Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body. Amen." - St. John Chrysostom