It was one of my jobs as a kid... my mother would say, "Set the table, we're about ready for supper." I took pride in it. I liked everything to be just right, everything matching, napkins under the forks, knife blades toward the plate. I didn't mind setting the table.
I set the table for breakfast this morning. I got there early so I could get find an alb to fit me.
It was the first community Eucharist of the school year. We were all sort of running around like chickens with heads off. It was exciting and exhilirating. It always is for me. Everytime I step behind an altar to prepare for the great feast of the Eucharist I am nearly overwhelmed with awe. I do not understand it. Everytime I think it will be different, mundane, just something else I'm doing.... it never is... never.
Today was the same, maybe even more intense. It's the first time I have stepped behind an altar since I made my decision to seek ordination and certainly the first time I've been behind an altar since being approved as a candidate. I guess it's all the more real now. One day, in the not so distant future, I will stand behind the altar, and say the mass, and break the bread, hold up the cup and offer the feast to everyone present. I wonder why it matters, why I need to do it, why I can't just be happy as a lay person living out a ministry of presence and pastoral care and educating those who want to grow theologically and spiritually. Why do I need to break the bread and say the mass, preside at weddings and conduct funerals, baptize babies and adults and sit at the beside of the sick and dying. Why me?
Maybe a better question is why not me? I feel like Isaiah. "Here am I; send me!" (Is 6:8). I feel like an idiot sometimes. But then I step behind an altar. And I feel like I've walked into another space, in a another time and place.
My spiritual home has been St. John's Chapel for the past three years. I treasure every time I walk into it now. I think about a time when I will not be here anymore, when I move on to do the work I feel called to do.
I think it will probably be like setting the table for dinner, I will remember the times I've walked behind that altar fondly, sweetly... and maybe I'll even hear my Mother's voice.... "Set the table, we're about ready for supper."