By Barb Arland-Fye
Janice told me she gets teary-eyed when she watches or participates in the Presentation of the Gifts choreographed to the hymn “One Bread, One Body” during Mass. Now I understand why after participating in this special movement with her and five other people, including our spouses, Tom and Steve. We presented the gifts at Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Ann Catholic Church in Long Grove where women from both parishes and other faith communities were participating in the Christian Experience Weekend (CEW).
Seven of us participated in the Presentation of the Gifts; six are members of Our Lady of the River in LeClaire. We’ve all attended CEW, an ecumenical retreat experience filled with witness talks, group sharing, prayer, sacraments and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Linda and her husband Dan asked us to participate. Dan led us through the rehearsal: Linda, Janice, Tom, Lorena, Aaron, Steve and me. The movements are simple and graceful, but as with any seven human beings we have our own ways of doing and interpreting actions. At first, we stood too close together; the women’s rotations weren’t quite in sync and when we raised our hands, some were cupped and others were spread out. When we lowered our arms, some lowered theirs faster than others. But that’s precisely why we rehearsed – we were seven bodies that needed to come together as one.
We gave each other tips for synchronization and encouragement. I reminded myself, this is not a performance. We are bringing the gifts of our gathered community of faith in thanksgiving to our Lord. God doesn’t ask for perfection; God asks us to be faithful.
The second reading for that Sunday, from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, spoke of the many parts that make up one body and how each is essential to the whole. Father Guillermo Trevino, the homilist for the Mass (and a CEW spiritual director), reminded his listeners that a simple hello to a stranger is one way to make that message a reality.
When the time came to present the gifts, I felt the Holy Spirit guiding the seven of us gift bearers as one body. Standing closest to Aaron, I watched in awe as he lifted the ciborium containing the bread to be consecrated. He appeared completely present to God. We brought the gifts up to the altar. During rehearsal, the women had joked about the possibility of accidentally rotating off the sanctuary steps. We rotated safely, and in sync (from what I could tell).
“I feel, collectively, we emphasized our oneness with Christ, the meaning of everlasting life, the renewal of oneself and with one another as a church community and our purpose here on earth,” Lorena told me. “Unifying with others in this capacity allowed me to give up my deep-rooted worries and troubles to God, through my breath, my actions and in song.”
Steve told me it’s hard to put into words what he appreciated most. But he knows he loves the music, the movement and taking time to be with the CEW group during Mass.
For me, the One Bread, One Body movement deepened an appreciation for Paul’s message to the Corinthians. It’s vital for all of us to come together to complete the whole.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at email@example.com.)