St. Albert the Great communion service
Here’s a thought that I’ll bet most of you don’t have on a Tuesday morning when you wake up at 5 a.m.: “Hey, I’ll bet St. Albert’s has got a 7 o’clock service.” That’s what was in my head this morning before I did an internet search, quietly dressed, leapt onto my bicycle and pedaled out into the wonderfully warm and hushed residential streets of Reno’s old northwest.
The church’s door was locked when I arrived at 6:40. A very few minutes later, Judy and Jim Fox arrived. Turned out they were going to conduct the service. Communion service is different from regular mass. Mass is the Catholic church’s “main” service. While they have many differences, mass is primarily dissimilar from the communion service because a priest conducts mass, and the communion service is less formal, conducted by lay ministers.
For those who have a desire to dedicate the day to God, the communion service is essentially a method of starting out in a mindful and meditative way by receiving the community communion, listening to some Bible verses and saying some group and private prayers. This is for dedicated Catholics. Attendance is not mandatory—in fact, I believe this was the smallest congregation I’d seen in any of my church reviews. There were seven people present including me.
The communion service essentially had six parts: opening prayers, readings, communal greeting, prayers in preparation for communion, communion and a closing prayer. (The communion wafers are prepared at an earlier mass.) There’s no sermon per se, as lay ministers aren’t consecrated to speak for God or the Church.
On this particular morning Jim Fox read from the Acts of the Apostles 16:22-34. It tells of how Paul and Silas were beaten, arrested and thrown into prison. They were thrown into prison because they’d cast a demon out of a slave who had the gift of telling the future. When the demon left, the woman’s owners lost the income made by her divination. Paul and Silas were praying aloud, the other prisoners with them, when at midnight, an earthquake came and broke down all the cell doors and loosed all their chains. The jailer came, and afraid that all his prisoners had flown the coop, prepared to kill himself. Paul reassured the jailer and showed him that no one had left. [The jailer] brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
The second reading, read by Judy Fox, was John 16: 5-11, which is basically Jesus telling the disciples why he must go back to “him who sent me.” It’s a rather difficult passage: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
I’m not exactly sure how to interpret this, but that’s what a communion service is good for: quiet contemplation. I decided, since Pentecost is coming up, that the Advocate must refer to the Holy Spirit. And even though I can read the explanation that follows as plain as day, I’m not certain how the Holy Spirit will “prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.”
I guess that’s why I write about my experience rather than pretending special knowledge of things churchy. And that’s why some people get up early and go to church—they need 15 minutes of extra time to think.