May I share with you a lesson I learned last Sunday? On Sunday September 30, I stumbled downstairs after my prayers to while away the time until Matushka returned from church. I turned on the Crystal's Cathedral's "Hour of Power" (admittedly for all the wrong reasons), then watched some of "Mass for Shut-ins" to wash away the lingering taste of the "Hour of Power". Eventually Matushka returned from church, bringing with her some prosphora/ antidoran from the service, which she put into my palm and which I consumed immediately.
I have eaten such antidoran countless times, but this time was different. When I received the fragments of bread into my palm, it was like a hand extended from the Divine Liturgy, which seized mine in its firm and warm grip. Consuming the prosphora I felt an instantaneous connection to the Liturgy, and felt united to all of you: to the priest who cut the prosphora at the proskomedia, to the deacon who assisted him and carried the diskos in procession at the Great Entrance, to the subdeacons who held the bread for the people at the end of the service, to the choir and people whose Eucharistic praises sanctified the bread in this way, making it not merely bread, but church bread, a divine gift. It was as if I could almost hear the chanting and almost smell the incense. It could simply be that I am missing you more each Sunday, but I think there was something more to it than that. The physical bread became a spiritual link.
The reception of prosphora that Sunday reminded me of what I knew before, though never so clearly as at that moment: that the physical carries with it the spiritual, and that this connection unites us all.
It was ever so: in the early church, Holy Communion was taken by the deacons after the service to the sick who could not be present at the Eucharist. In the early church, holy relics were sometimes shared among churches, one community giving as a gift to another community a portion of the relics of its local martyr.
This sharing of a physical gift (whether of the Eucharist or of a transfer of relics) created a bond between the giver and the receiver. The sick Christian, absent from the Eucharist, did not merely receive Communion; he or she was thereby also united again with the celebrating community. The church receiving the gift of relics did not merely enjoy the sacramental presence of the martyr whose relics they received; they also enjoyed a renewed bond with the church giving them. My reception of the prosphora reminded me again of the strength of our union, in Christ, with one another. Because we belong to Him, we belong to one another as well.
Your loving papa and fellow-servant,