Communion: a reflection on 9/11

Today is a significant day in U.S. history–a day when we became incredibly vulnerable.

Forgive me if I say that last year felt as though it should have mattered more, somehow. It was the ten year marker post-9/11. Yes, there was plenty of media coverage on it, but society careens onward and, while families and first responders feel the vastness of the loss acutely, the rest of us can merely stand by and take a moment. Perhaps this view from the West Coast is askew. It may seem strange that I want us to feel it more, yet it’s difficult to remember something I personally did not experience. …and yet, I attempt to do this very thing quite often.

Take this, my body, which is given for you.”  The words of Jesus spoken each week at churches around the world remind us that there is a strange mystery shrouding death, grief, loss, communion and the act of remembrance itself.

Loss rips us open, turns our insides out and, for a time, makes us raw. Everything hurts–what is intended to be a soft gesture from a friend pricks with searing heat. With the loss of a relationship comes a loss of control (even if it was illusory). Not manipulative control, but a kind of control over our emotions, our own self; a kind of knowing what to expect from the day. Those we love bring constancy in life’s perpetual experimentation. Our close relationships offer a kind of control factor, and when one goes, we’re suddenly barraged with free radicals from all directions. Not even the calendar is safe: birthdays, anniversaries, date nights are cast in the glow of a dark and somber hue. Loss makes us believe we will never be whole again.

“Time heals all wounds” is perhaps one of the biggest lies we could ever tell someone. The only thing time does is harden the tissue around the wound and bring scarring. When loss opens us up, we immediately begin to look for something/someone to put in its place. At the core of our being, we are hardwired for healing. We want to be whole, we need to feel complete. Grief, the companion to loss, reminds us that we are broken, missing pieces, that we are bound to others and those bonds can break.

Do we need to remember such pain? Do we need to know we’re vulnerable? Perhaps this is different for you, but I’ve noticed that it can take a series of losses before any one of us truly begin to understand just how connected we are and how we need to be with and for one another. What remembering can do is to give some structure to grief and loss, a framework or ladder for growing out of abysmal hurt. Remembering requires doing something, thinking something, consistently and regularly. Like lighting candles for prayer, there is ritual in remembering. But it isn’t just up to ourselves to practice the ritual. Some healing comes with quiet moments. More healing will come when we  invite others to practice remembering with us. One definition for communion is “intimate communication.” This is not a solo venture. The perception that we are to experience grief on our own, to somehow ‘get over’ our loss without others is a lie from the enemy of our souls.

This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant.”  Here’s a mystery: remembering death is a way to life.

The covenant Jesus offers through his death is the same Yahweh offered Abraham–to be with us individually and corporately. Emmanuel, God with us, is the proclamation of communion, before we can say, “death, where is your sting?”

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You, O Lord, are with me. 

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