Or, the Blood of Christ.
Priests must learn in seminary how to channel excess energy. Mine has decided that, since I offered to embroider Church paraments (analogion covers, Communion cloths, etc.), I must be a good person (a) to sew extra Communion cloths, and (b) to wash them. Why do people think that if you like embroidery, you must like sewing? I hate sewing. My mother used to give me all her mending and hemming to do, too, since she hated mending, and, well, since I loved embroidery, I must like sewing, too. Sigh.
So this past week, Father gave me a box of Communion cloths that need washing, and a sack of towels and a sheet that had been used in a Baptism. The sheet and towels, he explained, could go into the washing machine after the Chrism had been rinsed off them, but the Communion cloths would have to be washed by hand.
So I bought a large storage bin (for the sheet and towels), and on the first dry day all week -- today -- I carted the bin outside and poured three buckets of hot water into it, along with some environmental detergent -- since the water has to be dumped out into the ground, and in a place where no one will walk at that, I figured I'd better use environmental detergent. I left that to soak out on the "back" porch, and filled a much smaller basin with hot water, more environmental detergent, and the Communion cloths.
Let me tell you, six gallons of water weigh a lot. I couldn't lift that tub of water after I'd wrung out and removed the sheet and towels. I ended up emptying it the same way I'd filled it, pail by pail, and when the pail would no longer pick up much water, I was able to lift the bin and carry it out to a spot in the back yard that is so overgrown, no one will ever be able to walk on it. It has the added advantage of being a property line shared by a Catholic church. Look out, Catholics. ;->
Then I turned my attention to the Communion cloths, and I quickly discovered something: When you wash Communion cloths, the water turns...
...the color of blood.
The same color it would turn if you rinsed out clothes that had gotten blood on them.
Suddenly it hit me, as it never has before: That is the Blood of Christ that seeps into those cloths, and I was washing it out. What do you do with that knowledge?! The only thing possible, for me anyway, was to whisper the Jesus Prayer over and over, all the while tears pouring down my face. I heartily recommend this experience to anyone who has begun to get comfortable with his faith. It's a real smack upside the head.
(This water also has to go into the ground, where no one will walk on it. That patch of garden is awfully soggy, at the moment, between three straight days of rain and a lot of wash and rinse water.)
Now, my "back" porch is actually on the side of the house, and my house is on a very main street in town. I couldn't help wondering what the neighbors were making of this performance, the tub of water with the laundry ("Doesn't the poor soul have a machine?! What's wrong with the laundromat?!") followed by the trips back and forth into the house with large pails of water, not to mention the repeated trips out to the "back 40." My family and I can provide weeks of entertainment to the entire neighborhood just by having a dead tree removed and replaced by two new trees. I cringe to think what they'll be saying now.
But it was worth it.
My only problem: How am I going to do this kind of thing during the winter, here in the Far Frozen North?!
Maybe the One Whose Blood I was washing, will provide the answer to that one, too.