by Josh Huber
Flying to Missouri, I have visions of celebrating the eucharist in a glass plane alone.
I see the land coursing away below while I raise my hands above the elements.
Arms spread and uplifted the boundaries of the plane completely transparent, I would look and feel like a great bird caught upon some warm updraft of light and perfect blue.
Depending on the rite, the readings, the homily, and the prayer chosen it would take three to six hundred miles (as the crow flies) to complete the eucharist. So, of course, from the ground the whole ritual would be all but meaningless: the altar too far away to see except by extreme magnification and then only for a few minutes at most, and the words too slight to hear across distance and above the engines’ bellowings.
I suppose the plane could haul a congregation along to bear witness. But that was not in my vision. There was only me, a solo priest praying alone, a single body with the body and the blood, some basic accouterments–corporal, paten, chalice, purificator, a cruet of water–a glass altar, and perhaps a splash of flowers for color’s sake.
Alone, one soul, in a plane I imagine self-flown; an individual celebrating an invalid eucharist, lacking communion; a slim sliver sliding through the atmospheric eyes of God, between earth and heaven; floating over coiled rivers, oceans, lakes and ponds like enormous sleeping animals, the vast quilts of farmland stretching flat beyond the horizon and everywhere evenly stitched with roads, altogether beautiful and order, and welcoming as a well-made bed; all the dirt and grit, water and wit of the gathered world crying out–and no way to reach down, to give or receive, to touch, to arrive at home, to pierce beyond the crystal cage, adapt the liturgy for land, stop this streaking sacrament.
The Lord be with you.
Lift up your hearts.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere…
Like that: the call without the response all the way through. Not even an echo, only silence beset with jet sounds.
Then, with an intercom burst, the vision vanishes.
Due to weather, we are diverted to Oklahoma City where we will wait an unspecified while for fuel and permission to re-embark.
Row upon row of passengers grow restless. How long, O pilot, how long? Scattered folks rise to stretch, stand, chat, and relieve themselves.
We all plot toward our best travel course given the known inconveniences. We watch our moments leak out and puddle round us over the runway’s concrete.
And so we escape whatever malign force tempts us toward perfect loneliness–grounded and mingled together, stuck almost atop one another in the cabin’s cramped space, we are freed at least from sacramental inconsequence.
Here we are with nothing much to do but plod together toward whatever holiness lurks (always and everywhere…) within this existence.