People have many fears, like heights (acrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), and peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth (arachibutyrophobia). I’m fine on all these accounts, suffering instead from eucharistophobia: the fear of communion.
It’s not the concept of communion that does me in, nor is it the theological discussion. I weather such debates with ease.
No, it’s the actual celebration that traumatizes me. I’ve been participating at my church for the past twenty-odd years, and I still panic when I walk into the sanctuary and behold a mountain range of silver-colored dishes.
I’m fine with our preliminary hymn singing and passing of the bread. I can even grab the plate from the person next to me, delicately remove a microscopic wafer shard, and send the elements on to the next person without losing my place in the hymn.
The terror commences when it’s time for the cup.
Actually, it’s more like “cups.” Although we refer to it in the singular, what we actually use is tray upon tray of itty-bitty plastic vessels you can get for about two cents each.
See how they’re curved at the top? I assume this has to do with making pouring easier, but it also makes holding them extremely awkward. It’s well-nigh impossible to get a good grip while pinching this shape between thumb and forefinger. Why don’t I just use other fingers, you ask? Because there’s no room: these things are microscopic. Each one is a Tinkerbell-sized shot glass.
Even though the plasticware is tiny, the stain-producing potential of the contents is immense. As I sit with a cup suspended precariously between two fingers of my unsteady hand, I’m envisioning all the places the blood-red liquid could land if I lose my grip.
If I’m on the ball, I’ll realize when it’s the first Sunday of the month (communion day at my church) and grab a front-row balcony seat. This way I can use the ledge in front of me as a table while I wait for everyone else to receive their cups. However, I still imagine worst-case scenarios.
Of course, all of this is assuming I receive my cup successfully in the first place. Remember the aforementioned mountains of platters?
(photo taken from tustinpresbyterian.org, although probably not original to them)
My church has the same serving apparatus, and it’s downright terrifying to pass from person to person. What if I don’t have a good grip when the lady next to me lets go? What if I let go before the man down the pew has grasped it firmly? What if I drop it and/or the cup while attempting an extraction worthy of a booby-trapped version of the game Operation?
For one reason or another, I pray a lot during communion.