I remember reading my friend Travis Scholl’s book “Walking the Labyrinth” , and being struck by a line that was probably otherwise somewhat forgettable. He talked about one of his earliest memories of being a part of the community of the Church as playing in the pews and smelling the wine from communion on his mother’s breath as she prayed and talked to him. I remember those moments with my mother too, the freshly drunk wine still not metabolized completely and notable in the air.
This past Sunday we confessed what we believe about the Sacrament of the Altar:
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.
When Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 says that we are the pleasing aroma of Christ, I’m not sure if he had communion breath in mind, but he may have. I grew up in the pews and seating of church buildings. Like so many of our kids here at University Lutheran, I had an experience of the scent of communion before I had an experience of communion itself. Another author, Alan Lewis in his book “Between Cross and Resurrection”, talks about the way that we grasp the faith – that it is like the way that we learn to smile. First our mothers and fathers smile at us for months on end without our responding. But then, one magical day, we return their smile, having learned it from them.
Like learning to smile, I learned to commune. I learned what this scent meant just as I learned what the upturned corners of my parents mouths meant. It wasn’t an immediate learning, but deep learning is very rarely immediate. I learned from their lips that this was the very Body and Blood of the Lord, Jesus whom they had told me about. I learned from their breath the way that He inhabited their lives after this sacrament. I learned what it meant to be a part of this community of “communion breath”, and one day, I was invited to join the community in full – to gain communion breath myself and to begin to pass it along to others.
One thing I learned about communion breath is that you have to be close enough to share it. If we are to be the aroma of Christ, we need to be close enough to be smelled – breath and all. Let that be your goal this week, to gain some closeness with someone who has not yet experienced the Body and Blood of Christ in the hopes that one day, they may be able to smell your communion breath and hear from your lips what, and who, that smell is all about.