Holy Communion

We are home in North Carolina, weary but well. The flights homes from South Africa went well all things considered (a couple of cancelled flights got rescheduled soon enough). Flights from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Atlanta, Atlanta to Raleigh, a rental car from Raleigh to Seven Lakes, steps to a hot shower and bed.

We awoke to a new reality. I am saddened to have left the beautiful people and beautiful country of South Africa so suddenly. I will miss deeply new friends and colleagues.

I follow the news. South Africa goes into lock-down at midnight tonight. The whole country is ordered to stay at home and borders are closed. I pray for the health and safety of South Africans and the life and ministry of the Anglican church. No gatherings, no worship, no communion services for the near future.

In North Carolina, I am learning, we are facing similar advice. Stay at home except for essential matters, no public gathering, no worship, no communion services for the near future. The local Episcopal church is streaming services.

I will miss holy communion. In South Africa, and in other places on the continent that we traveled, when so much was unfamiliar and sometimes incomprehensible, regular participation in Anglican services of holy communion anchored me in a liturgy that was familiar even when in a language I didn’t understand, in the triune mystery of God’s love which I cannot comprehend, but could experience in Christ’s self-offering for the life and salvation of the world, in a unity with brothers and sisters in Christ that runs deeper than language or custom or ethnicity.

I will miss holy communion here in North Carolina knowing that in the sacrament I remain connected with friends, colleagues, and loved ones in a way that is unique and irreplaceable. Emails and Whats App messages are nice, but I long for the one bread, the one cup. This is a lenten fast that I would never have chosen.

One of the blessings of being in North Carolina is reconnecting with my library. I am reading F. D. Maurice. This morning I read Maurice on the Eucharist, “The Sacrament of His Continual Presence with His Universal Family.”

Maurice extolls the Anglican sacramental view of Christianity. The foundation of the church is not in dogmas or mystical feelings, but in the sacrament which unites us to God and to all people. In the Incarnation Christ united all of humanity to God and all of humanity to one another. The sacrament unites. Dogmas and religious feelings split people apart.

Maurice writes, “This sacramental view of Christianity is in itself more perfect than either the dogmatic or the purely spiritual … Both systems of divinity and Christian life have suffered, when sacraments have not been made the groundwork of them … All attempts to build up a Church upon a foundation, either of dogmas or of feelings, or of both combined, had been confounded by the demonstration of history .. By means of these great and living ordinances of God [i.e. sacraments] the universal Church, built upon the unity of three persons in the godhead, and upon the reconciliation effected for mankind by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has been upheld, in spite of the ignorance and inconsistencies of its members, from its first establishment on the day of Pentecost unto the present hour.”

Maurice, good Anglican forerunner that he is, holds up the early church fathers’ view of the Eucharist. He explains this view: “The Creator stoops to the creature that he may raise up the creature to fellowship with the Creator. The Holy One enters into the miseries and sorrows incident to the unholy and fallen race which he had formed, that he may lift them to the contemplation and participation of his own essential holiness and purity and glory. They have no doubt that Christ came to establish a kingdom, of which his apostles were founders. They have, further, no doubt that they are admitted by baptism into it and are inheritors of its blessings. They have no doubt that Christ, by taking the body of man, united men to each other; that by offering it to up to God, he united them to God. They have no doubt that he had glorified the body which he took and that this glorified body is the permanent bond between them and the Creator. They have no doubt that God means to feed them as his children. They have no doubt that what they want is to realize the connexion between God and themselves. They have no doubt that when he gives them bread to eat and wine to drink, he satisfies this want. He says of the bread ‘This is my body’: and they receive it as such. He says of the wine ‘This is my blood’: and they receive it as such. The thing itself is a profound wonder to them .. Hence the feeling of its being a Eucharist.”

I will miss holy communion.

  1. Joe and Amy, I am happy to hear you are safely back in NC. Such a challenging time for all of us…world over. Thank you for the beautiful writing on the Eucharist. Elizabeth

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  2. Thank you Joe for showing the path I journey with Him. I did not think of communion in the way that you have pointed out to me. For this I thank you.

    I too arrived home safely but as you pointed out it is a looooooong trip.

    Bless you and Amy.

    Godspeed Peter

    On Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 4:14 PM Amy and Joe Go to Africa wrote:

    > Joe Pagano posted: ” We are home in North Carolina, weary but well. The > flights homes from South Africa went well all things considered (a couple > of cancelled flights got rescheduled soon enough). Flights from > Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Atlanta, Atlan” >

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  3. Joe ,I am with you. Jim And I miss Holy Communion so much. We long to go to church with our community and receive Jesus in the bread and the wine. It has been so much a part of our lives. Even the times I was in the hospital for a long time at Walter Reed when I was pregnant with John someone came with communion every week and all the other times of being home bound it was the same. I think that is part of the reason I have always loved being a Eucharistic minister . The joy of taking the sacrament of Holy Communion to the home bound or to the Hospitol was so precious to me. I love what you have written here. Thank you . As always the writings of yours and Amy inspire ,teach and bless us. Thank You. I feel the sadness for you in leaving the beautiful South Africans and others beyond South Africa. I always long to return to East Africa to see the friends and children I still love from afar . I am thankful that you can be in your beautiful home of your parents . It is so peaceful there. We loved our visit with you. We are staying in which is what as 80year olds we need to do. Our children and young friends (Townsend ,Paige,And Margaret Cunningham) are so good to us. It is so hard thinking of all who are suffering in the midst of the virus. Main Street is quiet minus all the people because all the shops and restaurants are Closed. Our Stanton children are getting food as parishioners bring food along with friends. We send our love and prayers to you and Amy. We love you Jim and Deede

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    1. Dear Jim and Deede, Thank you for your response and thoughts. We are, indeed, sustained by the relationships we have formed in our families, with our friends, near and far, in our churches, and in the ways they are all sustained by the steadfast love of our Lord. Thank you for your witness to that communion that we all share even as we long for the time when we can be nourished at the Lord’s Supper in our parish churches again. Love, Joe


  4. Welcome Joe and Amy! I’m so glad you finally arrived home safely and healthy. I’m from Raleigh, so curious to know which church you usually worship in when home ? I love your feelings on the Eucharist too. Fran Lukens and I led discussions on the beginnings of our church offering the Eucharist to children back in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Before we all had to wait until we were confirmed at 12 to receive the sacraments. So we were teaching to the parents and others if the importance and meaning behind the bread and wine. It was truly beautiful to see families united at the altar of all ages receiving these gifts. To me this is the foundation of our faith and relationship with God. “ an outward invisible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”. This is in my mind and heart every time I receive communion. I too miss it. But I also always have that tiny grain of mustard seed with me.
    Please both of you stay well and isolated with your wonderful memories from your mission and teaching in Africa. Blessings and peace to you. ✝️

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    1. Thank you Lutie. When we are in NC we attend Emmanuel Church in Southern Pines. Hope you and your family are well and holding up under the present circumstances. It will be good when we can again gather with our beloved church communities and share in the Lord’s Supper. Peace and prayers, Joe


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