Fire & Bread of Suffering

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Reflections

Fire & Bread of Suffering 

A Guest Post by Marilyn Burrell

Picture this:

The minister arrives at the warm country church to lead the service for the fourth Sunday of Advent…. a communion service…

Arriving early enough to see that all is ready, she notices those little communion cups used during our Covid time waiting at the door for congregants to pick up on their way in. Suspicious … she opens one and sure enough, it is beyond spoiled. They are removed….and… 

The service begins, the light of hope, peace, and joy are joined by the light of the candle of love. Carols are sung, the reflection lifts up Mary and her trust and love that lead to her “yes” to God. A beautiful carol sung in Gaelic unaccompanied left the sanctuary in a peaceful silence. 

Time for communion…. The plate and cup are empty. 

She moves to the Table, she explains that the little cups were spoiled so communion today would look different. She tells of Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist and a Jesuit priest who also served as a stretcher bearer with the French army in 1914.

Once when in the desert Teilhard found himself without bread and wine for the sacrament. He offers what I will name, a sacrament of “suffering love”.

The minister lifts the empty plate for us all to see. She asks us to imagine it holding the suffering of the world, the suffering of our communities, and the suffering of our own lives. The plate, not empty, but heavy with all that is broken and in need of healing. She invited us to give names to the suffering and brokenness…. voices came from the congregation …Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, hunger, grief, homelessness, fear, violence, greed…… 

The minister lifts the empty cup. This she says is the cup holding the light and fire of love. It is not empty, it holds the healing power of love, the mystery of the most powerful and fierce love that comes for the healing of our world and our lives. She invites us to hold the cup, in silence and prayer pour into it that which we hold in our hearts all that needs healing and pass it to the next person offering them “peace.” Soft music plays until everyone had their time with the cup. 

The plate of brokenness, the cup of light and healing love.

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