I don't know what anyone else perceives during the communion experience. I don't know because rarely do we share. But I know what I experience. I did a little tally and I believe that in my life I've only experienced the sacrament of communion about 1000 times. There are those who've experienced daily communion and totally dwarf my experience. There are those who've only had it once a quarter and that adds up to a hundred or so times. Some even less…some much more. But I am curious as to what people experience at this most holy time of communion with Our Lord.
For me, my perspective is somewhat skewed. Being raised Roman Catholic; all those weekly communion services were bizarre by Methodist standards. I believed that I was actually eating the body of Christ…and becoming one with Him. The notion of actually eating Christ's body was at once strange…and at the same time, wonderfully comforting. I think only a Catholic would understand. But having grown to adopt a Methodist perspective, I see Christ as the host of a great dinner banquet, at which I'm a privileged guest. If I may, let me share.
Communion is, to me, Holy Communion. It is an opportunity to dine with Christ, at His behest, and be in His company. Upon receiving the elements, there is awe, an undeserved place of position, at the side of Christ. It's as if He says, "I invited you, so enjoy and be part of the conversation". But Jesus doesn't want a bunch of baggage brought to the table - NO - he wants joyful participation. That is my perspective of receiving the sacrament, one of joyful participation.
In our UMC liturgy for communion, we say a prayer of confession prior to receiving the elements. At the point of confession, that is where our sorrowful faces need to be. That is where our inadequacies need to be placed at the foot of the cross. At confession, that is where the sadness and personal shortcomings need to be put to rest. From that point on, it is a time of gratitude for being invited to dine with Our Lord. From that point on, there is an excitement about being a special guest. From that point on, we should be totally ready for a great experience, one that cannot be replicated anywhere under any means. Outside of communion, how often does God invite us to be one, with Him?
In our congregation, we refuse to have sad faces at the communion rail. Those are left at the point of confession. When we say the words on page 12 of the UMC Hymnal: "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven", we accept it - we embrace it - we carry it through the remainder of the liturgy. And at that wonderful moment where the elements are administered, when we actually eat the bread/body, and drink the wine/blood, we are there…there with the disciples at Christ's table.
It is from this moment that extraordinary demonstrations of the love of God are experienced. Prayers are answered, healings are administered, and communion with the triune God is experienced.
If communion Sunday is just another Sunday…but one with that "going to the alter stuff" included…then it is shallow. If communion Sunday is a time of celebration, a time of humble gratitude, a time of empowerment through the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit…then that is what communion should be all about. At least to me.