I’ve come to realize that I probably have thought enough about the elements of the Eucharist. I mean, I think I have the beginning part down. The idea about them coming from the earth, being substantial, being part of an actual meal – that I feel comfortable with. And the whole real presence – yeah, I’m cool with that as well. But it is what happens AFTER that I haven’t thought enough about. How do I handle the elements after the service is over and I’m alone with the leftovers in the sacristy, cleaning up as part of the altar guild?
By default, my theology is to consume all the leftovers. I tend not to play the game about when it’s no longer the body and blood of Jesus but I do tend to view them as set-apart. If I don’t consume them, I then try to return them to the earth rather than throw them into the trash. For my internship site, this means opening up a side door and walking a few steps to a nearby playground and pouring the wine/dropping the bread onto one of the many bare and lifeless spots of ground in New York City. I tend to only do that when there is too much wine for me to drink or if I just don’t feel like ingesting extra carbs. I don’t feel as if there is anything necessarily “wrong” with how I handle the elements but I do know that I haven’t thought about it enough. Instead, I’m parroting advice and thoughts that others have given me.
I was thinking about this while I was prepping for the late service and I was deconstructing the altar setup for the early service. I ate the remaining pieces of bread and noticed that there were a few minor crumbs left. I didn’t feel like doing anything too wild to ingest every single crumb so I just shook out the dish over the trash. And as the little pieces of bread feel into the trash can, I wondered if a) that was okay and b) was I okay with it? I don’t know the answer to either question right now.
After the late service, I had the same thoughts. I finished off the chalices of wine and white grape juice (which meant I downed about four glasses of wine in a few minutes), wondering why just I did that. Did it make sense for me to get heavily buzzed right before a few after church meetings just because I felt the need to ingest the leftovers of the elements? Or do I just always forget that I don’t have the tolerance I had five years ago?
Or maybe I should just have had breakfast before I left for church this morning. That probably would have kept my mind (and blood alcohol level) at ease today.