Sunday June 23rd 2019
…and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." (I Cor 11:24,25)
One of the great advantages of being an ecumenical canon is that I share in the worship of my cathedral, in this case Oxford. Because I straddle three Christian cultures, Eastern Catholic Byzantine Rite, where I now serve my flock, the Latin Rite of my origins as a Christian and the Anglican Tradition as part of my canonical ministry in ecumenism, the complexities of difference between the various churches take on quite a different hue. Gone is polemic ( if ever I used that?) shelved are the finer points and niceties of any doctrinal theological dissection and argument, instead a more charitable approach emerges!
The reality of Christian life means we are all committed to the unity of Christ, not our own forms of it and this means that the Holy Spirit must be discerned and heard in minds hearts and activity. So what you might say? Well it means that when I look at the Eucharistic celebrations of the three main ecclesial communities I know well, the difference of approach becomes apparent. For me personally this has been a real lesson in both humility and appreciation.
Humility in the sense that any theological arrogance and brash statements about the understanding of both Eucharist and the sacramental elements of consecrated bread and wine need to be quieted in face of other traditions. Appreciation for me is the capacity to love my own tradition dearly but also see the good, the elements of in others important points of faith and tradition that enhance and enrich.
So what about this feast of Corpus Christi? The East does not know it in the form we celebrate today, rooted in a deep patristic tradition the Divine Liturgy holds dear to the transformation of bread and wine by the action of the Holy Spirit so that it v becomes the body and blood of the Lord, but leaves the mystery of presence to the encounter of the faithful in communion. Our Anglican brothers and sisters have in part recovered some of the traditions of the medieval church and celebrate Corpus Christi much as the Latin (Roman) Catholics do.
What does it mean? Well quite simply that here in the form of bread and wine, offered, taken, blessed, broken and shared, the living tradition of our Church says that when Mass is celebrated with priest and people, when word is heard and Eucharist is celebrated, there the Spirit transforms these gifts so we may share in the living, real presence of the risen lord and be in communion with Him and each other. Wherever we do this, remember, offer these holy gifts, praise and thank the Living God we are bringing heaven and earth together not only in a place but also into ourselves. So that we become more and more the Body of Christ present in our world.
That to me is the mystery I cannot define, for it is an encounter not in doctrine, but in the gracious love and humility of the Lord who continually abides with us in that greater miracle than Cana, where the water of life is transformed into the wine of heaven. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (ICor II: 25)
Reflective poems for Corpus Christi
The Love of a Mother by Victor Hugo
O the love of a mother!
A love which no one forgets!
A wonderful bread which a God
divides and multiplies!
A table always served.
at the paternal hearth!
Each one has a part of it
And everyone has all of it!
Corpus Christi by Evelyn Underhill
Come, dear Heart!
The fields are white to harvest: come and see
As in a glass the timeless mystery
Of love, whereby we feed
On God, our bread indeed.
Torn by the sickles, see him share the smart
Of travailing Creation: maimed, despised,
Yet by his lovers the more dearly prized
Because for us he lays his beauty down-
Last toll paid by Perfection for our loss!
Trace on these fields his everlasting Cross,
And o'er the stricken sheaves the Immortal Victim's crown.
From far horizons came a Voice that said,
'Lo! from the hand of Death take thou thy daily bread.'
Then I, awakening, saw
A splendour burning in the heart of things:
The flame of living love which lights the law
Of mystic death that works the mystic birth.
I knew the patient passion of the earth,
Maternal, everlasting, whence there springs
The Bread of Angels and the life of man.
Now in each blade
I, blind no longer, see
The glory of God's growth: know it to be
An earnest of the Immemorial Plan.
Yea, I have understood
How all things are one great oblation made:
He on our altars, we on the world's rood.
Even as this corn,
We are snatched from the sod;
Reaped, ground to grist,
Crushed and tormented in the Mills of God,
And offered at Life's hands, a living Eucharist.
Hide and Seek by Malcolm Guite
Ready or not, you tell me, here I come!
And so I know I'm hiding, and I know
My hiding-place is useless. You will come
And find me. You are searching high and low.
Today I'm hiding low, down here, below,
Below the sunlit surface others see.
Oh find me quickly, quickly come to me.
And here you come and here I come to you.
I come to you because you come to me.
You know my hiding places. I know you,
I reach you through your hiding-places too;
Touching the slender thread, but now I see -
Even in darkness I can see you shine,
Risen in bread, and revelling in wine.
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