So when one starts a journey towards the priesthood things change. Of course that is an obvious sentence, because once anyone starts any journey things change. With becoming a priest one central that changes is how I experience the the Eucharist. Before the collar, on the congregational side of the altar rail, the Eucharist was about being fed...
...about showing up at God's table with all that is good and all that is bad about me,
...about that whole broken self being accepted by God, and
...about God saying, "I'll take you and here's me in exchange. The bread might taste a bit like card board and the wine might be a bit vinegary, but it's God and it is sufficient for you." Then I would say thanks God and go.
As a priest you can lose a lot of that in the Eucharist. It is really easy to become caught, not in the mystery of God's grace, rather in thinking about what comes next in the liturgy and not forgetting to take communion to that faithful person who can't walk sitting in the back. It can become about minutia not about the grand cosmic salvation scheme.
It is rumored that this phenomenon passes with time, and it becomes possible to preside and worship during the Eucharist. I have been waiting for that day, and at the Easter vigil this past Saturday night, I think I caught a whiff of it. There was something right about passing out the bread to folks at the rail, something Christ like in the people kneeling at the rail, something hopeful and holy. My friends the Caffeinated Priest and I Are A Writer have recently reminded me that, while in Seminary that taught us that the priest at the altar is a vision of Christ before the people, it is much healthier for me to have a vision of Christ in people I serve.
I love the people of my congregation dearly. Admittedly, with some it is an easier task then with others, but there is Christ in all of them. For all their joys and talent, gifts and skills, warts and foibles I love them. I pray for them. I hope for them. And, I hope and pray God keeps me humble enough to serve them well. Somehow, I think having enough faith in God keeping me humble will not be a hard.