To Be Vessel And Passage

motherhood as Eucharist

Right now are the waning days of pregnancy.

Contractions come and go. Intense, then subsiding. I can’t walk without waddling.

Sleep is fitful, restless. Comfort is elusive. I wake a hundred times.

Every morning the kids ask if the baby will be born today. No one knows.

These are my last days to carry. To be a vessel.

Soon I will become the passage.

. . .

Each time the priest lifts high the cup and plate, intoning the thundering prayer I’ve heard for decades, I try to understand.

What does it mean for God to be held in human hands? To offer us a way to become holy?

Eucharist is vessel and passage.

Jesus said I am the Cup of Life and I am the Way, and people were so startled by his strange words that they remembered them, recited them under breath a thousand times, wrote them down and passed them on, pressed them into the hands of others saying, see? It is all here.

If you can try to understand. If you can believe.

What I believe is this. We gather with strangers, we take bread and wine, we pray over food and drink, the Holy turns it into body and blood, we chew and sip it together.

It is the strangest moment of my week. The strangest thing I do with other humans.

We share one cup and it is accepted, which we do nowhere else (germs! personal space! me me me!). We chew the smallest piece of bread and it is enough, which we do nowhere else (super-size me! seconds! more!).

Then we kneel down and watch other people eat and drink.

Some of them are so reverent you want to cry, and some of them are so bored you want to shake them awake, and most of us reach out to take and eat and drink with such aching need, such secret suffering, such loneliness and searching and yearning that you can believe all over again in a God who knew we needed flesh and blood to remind our flesh and blood how wildly loved we are.

Only when Eucharist is poured out from the vessel, broken and shared, does it do what He told us it would do.

Remind us of Him. Draw us back to Him. Make us His body, together.

Bread and wine to body and blood. Chewed by our mealy mouths and swallowed by our germy lips.

Eucharist is earthy and embodied. I do not understand it and never will and it is still, strangely, shiveringly, the sacred everything of my week.

. . .

There are two ways to birth a baby.

You can push with blood, sweat, and tears until you are certain you are dying and breaking open from pain and no one else seems to recognize this suffering – and then the child slips out with astonishing wet wonder, both of you yelping for air as you begin to breathe, anew.

Or you can let a surgeon take a scalpel to slice your numbed skin, peel back layers of muscle and fat, and pull forth the child from the cavern as you lie on the table, strapped down, stuck full of tubes to keep you calm and still, ears and eyes straining to hear a mewling cry that will tell you the baby is born and safe.

I have had both births. Both transformations from vessel to passage.

I can tell you they are both terrifying and holy.

Choice and control and any illusion you carried into the prospect of parenting are ripped away. You are given your first earthy taste that motherhood will look and feel drastically different from you expected.

You did not know you had to be broken open like this. You did not know what it would feel like to hold tight and to let go, all at once.

Which is why birth prepares you for everything that comes next.

You will repeat this over and over again.

. . .

Motherhood means this. To be a vessel and to be a passage.

To carry a child within you (womb or heart, both ache the same). To pour yourself out over and over out of love. To let yourself be broken open so that they might draw forth life.

To be a way that guides a child forward. To accept your temporary status as source of shelter, comfort, and protection. To become a channel of love, as the poet wrote: You make yourself a way / For love to reach the ground.

Actually it is much more than motherhood.

Actually it is the shape of every calling. 

We receive a gift to carry and to pour out to others. We are carved into channels of grace through which God flows love. Our lives are not held fast and tight and safe for us alone. We are broken apart, over and over, and through the cracks we catch glimpses of the mysteries of living and dying.

This is body and blood, this is birth and resurrection, this is everything we are moving reaching working grasping aching waddling toward. And for one fleeting second each Sunday when I watch the children I love most and strangers I do not know stretch out their hands and take from a vessel to become a passage, I think I understand everything and nothing all at once. It is broken, it is holy, it is poured out, it is God.

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  1. Laurel on 7 July 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Wow. I’m stunned by the beauty of this piece, Laura.

  2. kimberly jaskulka on 7 July 2017 at 4:55 pm

    I needed this today. You are a vessel of God’s works. God speaks to the world through you, and we can feel your humble grace.

  3. Wendy Caduff on 7 July 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Laura this is so wonderful. You are so very talented! I feel another book coming along with a chapter like this. Blessings to you when that day of birth comes… May you and your little one both go through that passage safely with God’s own hand guiding you both.

  4. Peg Conway on 7 July 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Love those words, vessel and passage

  5. Shannon on 7 July 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Stop it. I have nothing to comment. But I *am* crying.

  6. Sarah Fearn Johnson on 7 July 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Laura, I loved your words vessel and passage. Thank you for thinking them and writing them so I could read them.
    I am your Fan.

  7. Diane on 7 July 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Beautifully written. I am always moved by your openness regarding your loss.

    We are holding you, your family, and your little one waiting to be born, up in prayer.

    Grandmother of Your goddaughter- Maria,


  8. Jane Deehan on 7 July 2017 at 11:08 am

    Beautifully written and very moving. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Amanda on 7 July 2017 at 10:51 am

    Laura. Man.

    I always want to comment on everything you write. To let you know your words are so moving. Beautiful. They carry in them a Truth. I have always wanted to write like you. To use words to bring to life experiences. Feelings. To share something so deeply human with others across space and time.

    But my comments to you never do justice to the gratefulness I have at being able to read your words. I think probably you write for the same reason I want to write, to touch others, to share the beauty and Truth with them that you experience in everyday life. So, I just want you to know, you are doing that. Keep sharing your beautiful gift.

  10. Katie on 7 July 2017 at 10:42 am

    Your writing only gets better. Thank you for these soul-nourishing words today. Carrying you and your approaching delivery in my prayers these days.

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