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He is not safe with me.

Yesterday, at Mass, I glanced up to see one of the lectors hustling down the aisle after a young girl. Our church is a genial space, and commotions are rare, so I watched to see what was happening. The lector caught up with the girl and forcefully whispered something — and the girl guiltily pulled a Host out of her pocket and ate it.

When I realized what was happening — when I realized that someone was walking away with Our Lord held loosely in her hand like a snack, I panicked. It was like at the county fair, when you look around and realize that a child is missing, has been swept away with the sweaty, malevolent crowd. The little one is lost, kidnapped, trampled, vanished. Where has he gone? Your limbs light up with adrenaline, the ground lurches and you don’t know whether to run or fall down.

And then it happened again. Another ignorant kid wandered down the aisle, there was another anxious hustle to chase her down. Another whispered demand, and the girl gamely popped the Host in her mouth, puzzled at the fuss.

I saw the Host rescued. Everyone turned up safe; there was no abduction. And, just as it happens when we find a little one who was lost at the fair, relief turned my choking panic into tears of rage.

“Where have you been?” I shouted in my head. “What is the matter with You? Don’t You know You can’t just go off like that?” I stormed. “You must stay with me, right with me where you will be safe!

“Don’t You know You could have been hurt?”

Ah, He does know.

I shouted, and Christ turned His head and looked at me, and my world was unmade. The fear-turned-anger tumbled back into fear again. God have mercy, I had forgotten: The one who binds the world in existence, second by second, allows Himself to dissolve on the tongue, any tongue, all tongues. My tongue, which I use to shout at  Him.

And I am afraid. This should not be. Where does this leave me? Where is my firm ground, if the unmoved mover has a Son who makes Himself so portable? Where is my firm ground? Not under any feet of mine, even though I know and follow all the rules for the reverent reception of the Eucharist.

I thought I was crying for Him, out of outrage for the shockingly careless offense that was done to Him. But I am crying for myself. If He goes off like that, then where do I stand? Where do I stand, and how can I think I can offer Him safety?

With me, He knows He can be hurt.

The ground lurches, and I don’t know whether to run or fall down. Christ have mercy on my careless, rule-abiding soul.

***

Image: detail of unidentified Russian Pantocrator icon

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