This is probably the first time that we could not meet together physically as a family of God during the Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed by the Malaysian government. This affects all our services for the Holy Week, one of the most important seasons for Christians. We cannot come together physically to commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord. We cannot come together to celebrate the Holy Communion.
There is a sense of emptiness in me, a sense of despair, and a sense of frustration for not being able to gather together as a community to celebrate the Holy Communion. While I do participate in virtual services online, somehow it can never replace a real physical community where we recite the Nicene Creed together, we confess our sins together and hear the absolution pronounced, we share the peace of God with one another, and where I serve the host to those who come forward to receive the body of the Lord. For me, there is something missing.
This reminds me of how the Israelites of old lamenting and crying out to God while they were in exile. They could not worship in the Temple. They could only look back to the time they worshipped the Lord in his holy place. They longed for the coming of the Messiah to deliver them.
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?
Celebrating the Holy Communion is not merely to remember the death of Jesus (1 Cor 11:23-25). It is also a proclamation of the coming of the Lord again. St Paul reminds us: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The Holy Communion itself expresses this deep longing and anticipation of the coming of the Lord. We look forward to the Great Banquet. It creates in us the cry: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus (1 Cor 16:22). And this is the greatest hope of our Christian faith.
I can’t imagine how it would feel like when the church meets again in the future. I think tears might just roll down my face when I can finally hold and lift up the host, and break it and hear the “piak” sound and say: “We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.”