By Bonnie Shaw
(Article originally published by The Well on July 25, 2020)
A Longing from the Heart
“Jesus, I miss you. I miss your Precious Blood.” This resounding sentiment assails my thoughts of late. My last reception of the Precious Blood was in early March at a Healing Mass presided over by Father Ubald at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart in Ankeny.
“Precious body, precious blood, seen in bread and wine;
Here the Lord prepares the feast divine.
Bread of love is broken now, cup of life is poured:
Come, share the supper of the Lord.”
– “The Supper of the Lord” by Laurence Rosania
This blessed refrain echoes in my mind upon waking, gently escaping from slumbered silence like the emergent dawn on the horizon.
Theologically, I understand that Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity are contained under either species of bread or wine. Despite that, I long for the fullness of the Eucharist: Body and Blood, hidden under bread and wine.
I am honestly tired of hearing the phrase “our new normal” as if the rebranding of all things changes the disappointment deeply felt or the loss significantly experienced by countless people. The collective trauma of grief and loss cry out for acknowledgment.
An Understanding of the Mind
I had the privilege of serving St. Francis youth in our Confirmation program alongside Deacon Bill Richer. One particular lesson he taught on “Form and Matter” dwells in my heart. He clearly explained that “Form and Matter” are the “How and the What” of the sacrament. Form usually includes the words and actions used while performing the sacrament, while matter refers to the materials present or prerequisites for the sacrament.
Our churches have opened, the form and the matter are both on and spoken from the altar. The Mass is truly celebrated, and I count it a blessing to be back in a pew. Yet, I miss Him! I miss the sublime holiness, the deep communion in my soul with His as I kneel on my padded kneeler and give thanks. Perhaps it is time to discover the depth of the loss, the loss of heaven that communion echoes-our original sin has shattered this divine experience, but our souls long for it.
While at morning mass, I try to maintain my reverence for the Lord. I awkwardly unmask to receive Him, the Blessed Host, the very One who revealed His Glory to Moses with unveiled face. (Exodus 33:12-18)
Eyes closed, kneeling in prayer, the Host seems to swell between my tongue and palate. It grows and fills my senses: the earthy taste and texture transforming from flat and thin to pillowy and soft. It is profound, and I am grateful. My heart lifts in praise, thanking the Lord for every precious morsel, every blessed drop of His Blood contained therein.
Meanwhile, my spirit cries out, “But, I miss your precious blood. I miss holy water and sacraments like Baptism, Anointing of the Sick for the Dying. I miss the Treasury of the Church that is locked away from the Faithful.”
Though I carry a small bottle of holy water and try to bless myself and offer my family its contents before entering the sanctuary, there are days I forget. I stop at the dry holy water font and wonder why I am stopping. I enter the church in a daze.
Form and matter.
My words and actions matter- the materials present matter.
And yet, they are lost to me, day by day, little by little.
I want to remember. I want it back. I wish it never went away. My soul feels torment. I desire all these things to be hidden in my heart, and yet I am forgetting so soon!
A Consolation of the Spirit
A tear escapes, making its way down the contour of my face. I cannot hide from the One who sees me so clearly, who loves me so intimately.
An image appears in my mind, just beyond lowered lashes. Larger than life- size immeasurable in the moment, a chalice suspended in a vision of color. A swath of ethereal clouds radiating the prismatic spectrum of color no longer bound by the bands of the rainbow in the background.
More tears. A gasp and an errant giggle break free.
This Holy Image is a gift. It is radiant sunlight after a swirling storm of grief and emotion. The clouds of my despair part. His rays of light penetrate my soul.
This Blessed cup, captured in a Holy Image, was given to my friend Christine Hilbert (Artist-in-residence for The Well) to paint in watercolor- using Holy Water! I had seen a digital thumbnail of the original just the day before.
Most Sunday mornings used to find our families mere pews apart, worshipping at morning mass. In this moment, the Lord was abundantly encouraging me through the charism He has given her, to paint His Holy Image. The communion of saints, to intercede for and encourage one another, remains powerful in its reach.
In compliance with socially distanced guidelines- from her home studio miles away to my exact pew, the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work. He remains steadfast in His constancy, beautifully reminding me-of little faith, that the Treasuries of His Church are abundantly available.
He continues to pour down His Spirit, His generous gifts and varied charisms upon His people to encourage one another. They are truly for His glory and our edification. His form and His matter.
A new song enters my heart. The lyrics are from The Belonging Company. (“Peace Be Still”)
“Peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks”
Peace. I breathe it in, deeply.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Artist’s Note: “This piece, entitled “Corpus Christi,” was painted earlier this spring before I was able to receive the Eucharist at mass. Unlike other pieces I paint, I didn’t have a specific concept or even color palette in mind when I started. In all honesty, it is hard for me to recall specifics about the creation of the piece. As crazy as it may sound, it was as if the Holy Spirit worked through me in its creation. Like Bonnie, I too have a jar of Holy Water I have found to be especially precious at this time when it is not readily available. I have been incorporating it, drop by drop, in especially important pieces I have been working on. For this piece, I first started with holy water- watercolor on paper, then digitally enhanced and added to the composition (this is especially evident in the highlights on the host and chalice). My prayer is that this may be a source of comfort, a guide for meditation, and ultimately lead the viewer to a closer connection to our Lord.”
-Christine Hilbert, Artist-in-Residence (http://www.christinehilbert.com)
About the Author: Bonnie Shaw is wife to Chris, mother of four perpetually hungry offspring, and in continual anticipation of summer and hot weather. An educator by degree and lifelong learner by habit, she consumes stacks of books, inhabiting both her imagination and contemplation as she seeks connection with truth, ideas, and the laughter of friends traveling the same road. In relentless pursuit of more perfectly trusting in the Lord’s divine mercy, she is so very thankful for His grace and the peace and shelter of His presence as well as the example of others who love Him.
Copyright 2020 Bonnie Shaw