Being a Protestant at a Catholic service can sometimes feel a little foreign, especially if you are unfamiliar with the liturgy and order of worship, and sometimes even more because you can’t take communion. I suppose this morning’s service here at our compound in Santiago, Dominican Republic seemed even more foreign because most of it was in Spanish, which I don’t speak.
But even though I didn’t understand most of the words, I did know the style and form of the liturgy—I knew what a lot of the words would have been in English. The Apostle’s creed is the Apostles’ creed- regardless of what language it is spoken in.
In a cross cultural setting like this, you start to realize what parts of the service minister to your heart the most—beyond the intellectual insights that the sermon might have brought. The two moments of service which needed no interpretation, and which were as powerful in Spanish as they would have been in English, were the passing of the peace and the walking up to the front in communion with everyone else in the church.
It’s surprising how unnecessary words are to express authentic love to others who don’t speak your language. When you greet your neighbor and wish them ‘peace’ there is no confusion about what is being said.
And walking up together to the front together is an act of solidarity—an act of admitting that we are all in need of the work of Christ in our lives. Like a good Protestant, I didn’t take communion (honoring the Roman Catholic prohibition of non-members to partake) but I did receive a blessing from the priest—Father Bill. He said, “You be the body and blood of Christ to those you meet in the world this week” It was a powerful blessing for me.
Fr. Bill did provide a brief English translation of his message for us at one point, pointing out that our relation to God and God’s relation to us is not a legal one, but a matter of covenant. Its rooted in love and we respond to God’s love to us with reciprocal love to God, and to all of God’s creation. Its not a legalism, its not a works based response. It is a response of love.
So today, in the Dominican Republic, in a church not my own, which spoke a language not my own, I found a blessing from God, and was nearly brought to tears.
May God have mercy on us all.