“Take this vessel with bread …”

On Sunday, September 26, twenty-three men were installed as acolytes for the Diocese of Knoxville by Bishop Richard F. Stika. I was among their number. This represents the last step before we are ordained, by God’s grace, to the permanent diaconate in June of 2022. Two years ago, we became deacon candidates. Last year, we were installed as lectors to proclaim the Word of God. This year, we were installed as acolytes, to serve at the altar of the Eucharist.

Acolyte is no longer a step reserved for those to be ordained to the priesthood, but it remains a great honor to serve at the table of the Lord. We will assist the priest in the preparation of the altar, in the preparation of the gifts, in the distribution of Holy Communion, and in the cleansing of the vessels after Communion. Just as a lector is one who proclaims the Holy Scriptures, where Jesus is present as the Word of God, so an acolyte is one who serves at the table of the Eucharist, where Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, as the Bread of Life. It’s all about Jesus’ presence among us as the Word of God and the Bread of Life. As acolytes, our ministry is summed up in the prayer Bishop Stika offered just prior to our installation:

“God of mercy, through your Son you entrusted the Bread of Life to your Church. Bless our brothers who have been chosen for the ministry of acolyte. Grant that they may be faithful in the service of your altar and in giving others the Bread of Life; may they grow always in faith and love, and so build up your Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

After offering this prayer, we each knelt before the bishop, accepted the paten from him, as he charged us: “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.” To which we each responded: “Amen.”

The ministry of acolyte implies a deep devotion to the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the mystery of Christ’s presence, His sacrifice, and our communion with Him. He is present on the altar as bread and wine is transformed into His Body and Blood, and then in the tabernacle, the dwelling, the shekhinah of the Lord, where we can approach Him with confidence in His presence before us. At every celebration of the Eucharist, the one sacrifice Christ offered on the cross is made present so that we may participate in that sacrifice. Finally, we receive Him as nourishment for our spiritual journey. But, unlike the food we eat that is transformed into us, when we consume this heavenly food, we are transformed into Christ. We become more like Him. “Become what you receive!” We become united with Christ in preparation for that day when we will come to share in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

These mysteries are expressed eloquently in one of my favorite poems: Lost, All Lost In Wonder by Gerard Manly Hopkins, SJ:

Lost, All Lost In Wonder    by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.

Please continue to pray for those of us in formation for the permanent diaconate. Pray, also, for our brother candidate, Salvador Soriano, who continues to recover from COVID. Pray, also, for our dear brother, Deacon Ken Conklin, who was ordained to the permanent diaconate by Bishop Stika on Saturday, September 25, but will continue in formation with us (more on that later).

David Anderson, Holy Cross, Pigeon Forge

Shawn Ballard, St. John Neumann, Farragut

Jim Bello, Sts. Peter & Paul, Chattanooga

Peter Chiaro, St. Theresa, Clinton

Humberto Collazo, St. Dominic, Kingsport

Deacon Ken Conklin, All Saints, Knoxville

Roberto Cortes, St. Thomas, Lenoir City

Eric Dadey, Good Shepherd, Newport

Gianfranco DellaSantina, Holy Cross, Pigeon Forge

Bob Denne, All Saints, Knoxville

Leon Dodd, Our Lady of Fatima, Alcoa

David Duhamel, St. Mary, Oak Ridge

Wade Eckler, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Chattanooga

Michael Gray, St. Elizabeth, Elizabethtown

Jim Haselsteiner, St. Mary, Johnson City

Joe Herman, St. Anthony, Mountain City

Bob Hunt, All Saints, Knoxville

Vic Landa, Blessed Sacrament, Harriman

Greg Larson, St. John Neumann, Farragut

Pat Nakagawa, All Saints, Knoxville

Augustin Ortega, All Saints, Knoxville

Rafael Pubillones, St. Thomas, Lenoir City

Chad Shields, Christ the King, Tazewell

Salvador Soriano, All Saints, Knoxville

Dave Venesky, Immaculate Conception, Knoxville

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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