As we in the congregation at my church leave our pews to process up to take communion, we sing a simple set of words about what we hope will happen as we receive the host and (if chosen) wine. Recently, those words were these: “Take, oh take me as I am,/Summon out what I shall be/ Set your seal upon my heart/ and live in me.” I can’t get the words out of my head, often waking to their melody’s returning to me. I’m pretty sure the reason lies in the second line; what does it really mean to ask anyone or anything to “summon out” some aspect of one’s being? My trusty unabridged Webster tells me that to summon means “to order, as by a summons, to appear in court.” So am I asking God to order me to be more of what I am capable of being? In a beautiful poem, John Donne implored God to change him through violent means, but God replies that force is not his MO. Rather Donne must love God himself if he wants to come closer to the God-head.
Webster also tells me, however, that “summon” means “to call forth, rouse, gather, collect,” and this seems to illuminate our chant most helpfully. The author of the verses implies that what we “shall be” is already within us, just lying dormant or perhaps dealing with our having pushed that fuller self to the side in order to pursue some smaller, more secular goal. The speaker begins this request of God, however, by knowing that s/he is acceptable as s/he already is, so judgment is precluded from the process. The supplicant also uses the future perfect tense–“shall be–leaving no room for failure. When I sing this, albeit slightly off key, I feel certain that the God of my understanding wants me to be all of which I am capable, to assume full stature. I am even asked to consider how I will become more of my possible self than I am as I walk toward the communion server.
I will be able to answer the summons, sent not aggressively but lovingly, by having my Higher Power set a seal “upon my heart,” not “on” it or “in,” it. I flash to my attaching one of my vast supply of stickers to the front of boring envelopes containing payment of bills or even personal cards. I set those little seals UPON the paper to be a signal to the recipient that I hope they are having a pleasing day as they go about their mundane tasks such as opening my envelope. I also have an image of my going about my life with some temporally invisible but spiritually detectable identifier. If I let God into my life, others will sense the implantation within my heart and I will be able to be what Mother Teresa thought we each was–the face of God working in the world around us.
Though we vary these little verses sung as we take communion on a given Sunday, this one clearly has a profound effect on me. Often, these days, when my larger world seems to be being fractured and shredded by the current president and his spokespeople, I sing these simple words as I walk early in the morning or as labor to quiet my disturbed mind at night as I try to go to sleep. I believe I hear the summons and I work hard to burnish the “seal upon my heart” by acting in concert with others who feel similarly to me.