Communion Words

Every Friday morning, the seminary community participates, in addition to the usual morning prayers, in the sacrament of communion. Growing up, I bought the arguments for only having communion every few months: that it stays “special,” that we stay hungry for it. Now after enjoying weekly Eucharist for the past year, I must say that I am as hungry for it as ever; in fact, my appetite for the Lord’s Supper has been sharpened.

I discovered this quote from Jean-Jacques von Allmen last spring during my Introduction to Preaching course. I was reading his book Preaching and Congregation as a dialogue companion, in order to explore more what it means to preach, and I encountered this quote:

[God] ordained for the sacrament simple, solid, wholesome things–water, bread and wine; and we should therefore use in our sermons words which can bear comparison with the means of the sacraments. Too often we preach as though we baptized with syrup and communicated with pastry. That is perhaps one of the reasons why there are fewer men and women at our services.

bread and cup

I was, and continue to be, convicted by Mssr. von Allmen’s quote above. I am a deep lover of language; it is a delight for me to read good writing and listen to beautiful speech. This value for well-crafted speech influences my opinions of others–perhaps too deeply: preachers, presidential candidates, professors, peers. But here in this quote, I find a piercing critique.

Sometimes our bodies have to lead our souls;we have to discern what’s happening inside us before we can discover what’s happening inside us. Lately I have been eating richer foods than I usually do, and my body is beginning to tell me that a simpler diet is necessary. At the same time, my soul is telling me that a similarly simpler diet of language is also necessary. This week especially, my priority of beautiful language has overturned my concern for careful communication, and I have been convicted once again that my speech should be simple, solid, wholesome.


This morning, during the proclamation of the Word, I once again heard beautiful, well-crafted speech: beautiful analogies, humorous playfulness, compelling arguments. However, my soul was already full. My heart’s palate had had enough of words; what it wanted was substance.

I found myself craving a simple, heartfelt reflection, rather than a cultivated homily. When we were invited to the table, my soul thrilled: here was real sustenance. The simple wine and the solid bread tasted wholesome on my tongue. The flavor and texture of ordinary elements resonated throughout my mouth and body. Sometimes our bodies have to lead our souls; we have to discern what’s happening inside us before we can discover what’s happening inside us.

Lord Jesus, Word-made-flesh,

tame my tongue and tune my ears,

so that I may be satisfied with what is simple, solid, and wholesome

and discover in it your comforting, real presence.

In your name, Great High Priest, I pray. Amen.

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