The Return Flow is the real climax of any ADF ritual. After giving to the Powers, we ask for a gift in return. The omens are taken, which lets us know whether our gifts are enough, and what we will get in return.
The request for something in return is not a demand. It is not do ut des. We are building a system of charis with the Deities, one where we give gifts in order to establish a rapport with the Gods. It’s a system where we become like good friends, and when a close friend gives you a gift, it is considered good and right to give a gift back.
Repeated several times in the Hávamál is the statement, “For a gift calls for a gift.” This sums up the idea of the Return Flow very well. We have given of our wealth and our love, and now we ask that it be returned. No demand is made, but a request.
The priest will elevate the chalice(s) and hallow the waters. The water is “charged” with the blessings of the Deities, and when we drink from the cup, Their blessings are given to us.
This part of the ritual seems to be very similar to communion in a Christian service, but the symbolism and the process is fundamentally different. Christian communion involves the forgiveness of sin and the acceptance of Christ in a form of ritual cannibalism. The Return Flow does not require admission of fault or sin, nor does it require submission to a higher power. It is a blessing from the Gods, and it is not flesh or blood.
So what's the deal? I'm working on ADF's Study Program. There's one entry. See some more on my website, if interested.