Jun 27, 2007

Assist us with thy grace

His hands shook, when he tipped the cup and drank the last of the communion wine. The wine was white, so it wouldn't stain the gold cup and the congregation watched him. The congregation of ten watched his bearded throat constrict and swallow the transfigured blood of Christ and they watched him take a sanctified cloth and whipe the cup dry.

The priest's dog sat on the porch and watched him through the screened door and the dark summer sanctuary. The congregation watched. They kneeled in their seats praying murmuringly and praying silently and they watched while he took a small stack of paper-thick wafers on a glass plate and placed them under the alter, under the crucifix. The deacon's wife watched, sitting in the first pew and thinking under her breath that it was Father's shaking hands, Father's beard, Father's alcoholism and peculiar and pointless sermons and love for obscure, unsingable hymns. She was thinking that was what was keeping the church so small, so creaky and old and keeping the congregation confined to the first floor of the Maple Street house.

Father Brown's hands shook and he cried without warning. The tears came out under his glasses, crossed his cheeks and disappeared into his beard. The dog, a beagle with a Pope John Paul the Second metal hooked next to his name tag on his collar, stood up.

The room was dark. The room smelled like sweet pea blossoms and tasted like wine.

Father said, Almighty and everliving God. Father said and the congregation said, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body...

They spoke in overlapping voices trying to speak in unison. They spoke and the Catholic bells from the other block began to ring slow. The spoke and the morning went into afternoon. They spoke and they prayed to God in Victorian English and the priest cried and knew he was leaving as a failure, knew he would raise his hand in a wavery cross one more time and say the trinity and say, remain with you always and that would be the end.