One Body, One Flesh

Still by Lauren Winner

…it is only later, after I ask the priest, that I learn something about the elderly couple who, near the end of the Communion train, come to the rail and kneel, fragile as mushrooms.

What I learn is that for a dozen years, he has been afflicted by a wasting disease, an intestinal disease that makes it almost impossible for him to eat–he lives on Ensure and lemonade. But at the altar I don’t yet know that, I only know what I see: they each take a wafer from the priest; and when I come to them with the chalice, the wife dips as I say “The Blood of Christ keep you in everlasting life,” and she eats her wafer, and then her husband likewise intincts his round of Christ’s Body into the wine and then he hands the round of Body of Blood to his wife and she eats his wafer for him. There at the Communion rail, I don’t yet know what illness lies behind this gesture, I know only the couple’s hands and mouths, and that I am seeing one flesh. I have read about this, heard sermons about a man and a woman becoming one flesh; and here at the altar, I see that perhaps this is the way I come to know such intimacy myself: as part of the body of Christ, this body that numbers among its cells and sinews and octogenarian husband and wife who are Communion.

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