While enjoying lunch a few days ago in the cafeteria of a local medical center I witnessed something quite extraordinary. An elderly couple began their midday meal a few tables away. The woman handed the man a small packet of mustard. Without hesitation he took the packet from her, pulled out a small penknife knife, opened the small scissors attachment then slowly and carefully cut off a corner of the packet before handing it back to her. They ate without speaking. Words were superfluous as they sat comfortably in each others quiet companionship.
As Christians we assemble to celebrate and share in the Eucharist. This heavenly meal is at the heart of our Christian experience. And being good Orthodox folk we always enjoy a common meal afterwards. As a society, as a people, as fellow travelers the breaking of bread together is perhaps the most essential of all our common rituals. The space between us as we sup together shrinks and our defenses fall. Strangers no longer seem so strange and families and friends strengthen/renew their bonds. Meal time is where we share not just food but stories, hopes, dreams, disappointments, burdens, memories and most importantly, love.
For the elderly couple this lunch was a simple meal much like the thousands of others they shared over the years. But this was much more than the sharing of a simple sandwich. The man’s response spoke volumes about their relationship (I am sure they were husband and wife). He knew exactly what she needed and expected from him. She in turn trusted him to know what she needed. Here was love in action, here no explanation was necessary and no questions need be asked. No words but very clear communication.
When they finished eating he tidied up then helped her to stand. She slowly began walking away (with the help of a walker). He spoke softly to her urging her to be careful. All the while he kept his hand lightly on her back in case she slipped. They disappeared around the corner most likely on their way to more tests, to more uncertainty. No matter, he would be there with/for her and they would face it together.