Routines & Roles

Photo of Christ in Hagia Sofia.
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“The Blood of Christ.”

Amen.

“The Blood of Christ.” Inch up cloth.

“Amen.” Grab cup, turn an inch or two counterclockwise. Next person approaches.

“The Blood of Christ.” Hand off cup. Inch up cloth.

“Amen.” The cup is returned. Turn an inch or two counterclockwise as the next person approaches.

“The Blood of Christ.”Hand off cup, flip cloth over.

“Amen.” The cup is returned. Wait.

The slight of hand involved in this role is amusing to me. Most people don’t notice me turning the cup to offer a clean place to drink. Most people never notice how I inch up the cloth in order to clean off the place where their mouth, the person before and after, sipped. It’s a delicate, quiet role. With one line. Two. I have one, they have the other. Various forms of respect are offered for this Sacred Catholic Rite.

At our church, at the mass we attend, there are three Eucharistic Ministers to accompany the priest. One who is responsible for the host, the bread, the body. And there are two who are responsible for the wine, the blood. There are certain things that need to be done, some assigned, some not. The assigned roles are who will be the one to take the host from the Tabernacle and the two ministers who will administer the wine. The unassigned roles are who will offer the bread or wine to the other lay people around the alter and the elderly folks in the front role.

It’s a silent play often choreographed without gestures. Only rarely does the parish need prompting that someone forgot their role, like last week when Fr. John had to request another Cup Minister. Otherwise, you silently watch while others take or don’t take the lead and you fill into get the job done. It’s a simple understanding of what needs to happen and who is supposed to execute the plan. More often than not, it is executed so quietly, so well, that nary a soul in the church realizes what is involved, the training, the separation of duties, to get that job done.

The parishioners have their role. Theirs is to approach, wait, say “Amen” and return the cup. Quietly, waiting in the efficient queue created from years of refinement. Yet, each person individualized their role. Each person has their own manner in which they accept the cup, say or mutter “Amen”, and return the cup.

The most entertaining is one parishioner who has this carefree way about him. Recently, our parish switched to these lovely pewter cups from the glass wine glasses. A relief for this lackadaisical manner in which he takes, drinks, and hands back. Usually one handed where I worry, “Is it going to drop or spill?” But, it never does, so I want to giggle when I should be effaced stoically.

Although I often feel a little anxiety over this role, as it is yet another responsibility that I have agreed to accomplish, I find its routine comforting. I like to know. I like to realize how things work. I like to see the inner-workings of a production. I like to participate, to learn. So, this small, quiet, important role satisfies these other needs and desires I have. I can study the mannerisms, and giggle (stoically) at the quirks we each exhibit.

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