Corpus Christi – Br. David Allen
This sermon for Corpus Christi was preached at Emery House
1 Cor. 11:23-29; Jn 6:47-58
Today we are keeping the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, historically called Corpus Christi. On this solemn feast day we acknowledge and celebrate the meaning of the Holy Eucharist wherein we are spiritually fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the forms of consecrated bread and wine, and fed also by the prayers of the whole Church.
All of the Post Communion prayers that we use during the year recognize the importance that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist has for us, but there is one of those that I think particularly points up that importance in ways that go beyond our daily spiritual nourishment to touch on the cosmic dimensions of what takes place when we have participated in this Holy Sacrament. That is the prayer that begins with the words, “God of abundance”.
When I was in seminary some 54 years ago one of the questions on a mid-term examination for (The Rev. Dr.) Massey Shepherd’s Liturgics class was to “write briefly what participation in the Holy Eucharist meant to you.”
My answer to that question was that “when I participate in the Holy Eucharist, especially at the moment of receiving Communion, whether I feel it or not, I am united with Christ and with all of God’s people in heaven and on earth.” A few years ago when I prayed the Post Communion Prayer, “God of abundance”, for the first time, and said the words, “you have fed us with the bread of life and cup of salvation; you have united us with Christ and one another; and you have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth,” I was struck with a strong recollection of that examination and the answer I had written to the question about what participation in the Holy Eucharist means to me.
Although I would have agreed with the truth conveyed by the final sentence of the prayer; “now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue forever in the risen life of Christ our Savior;” at the time of that examination I would not have felt that truth with the conviction that it now holds for me.
Now, having served the Church in Japan, and in more recent years ministered to those who have come from China; places usually considered as parts of the Church’s “Mission Field”; both of those truths which are contained within the feeding that we receive in the Holy Eucharist have a much deeper meaning for me.
What undergirds and validates those truths that I hold concerning the Holy Eucharist is my conviction that our Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly present both in the sacramental elements of the consecrated Bread and Wine, and in the efficacy of the prayers that we offer when we gather to celebrate our Lord’s presence with us in this Blessed Sacrament.
Many years ago I read in a book about the Anglican Church in the era of the first Queen Elizabeth a statement purported to have been made by that Queen about her own belief in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I tried to find a reference to that statement in the books that we have in our library here at Emery House, but I had been unable to find it. So, I was attempting to reconstruct from my memory something of what that statement was when Br. Jonathan reminded me that it can be found in the Hymnal 1982; “Christ was the Word who spake it, he took the bread and brake it, and what that Word did make it, I do believe and take it.” I had remembered three of the four phrases correctly, but I was glad to find the whole statement. This is in reference to Jesus’ words, “This is my body, this is my blood; take them in remembrance of me.” This I do take and believe with my whole heart.
[Hymnal 1982 #322 2nd stanza. Also attributed to John Donne]
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Thank you Brother David for kindly sharing your thoughts on this sacramental gift to us.
Yes, culturally it is a hurdle for non believers to grasp the meaning. But the universality of the “meal gathering” that he chose to make central to His teaching, can easily be recognized as divine genius.
“This is my body this is my blood, do this in remembrance of me.”
These words are found in the Word of God so many times, that it seems incumbent upon all Christian denominations to act upon them.
Thank you. I have always struggled with the literalness of the Eucharist, which, as one Muslim friend put it, “it´s like some cannibalistic ritual or something”. I appreciate your reminder that however we digest the sacrament, it is coming from a God of abundance, who gives us enough to be the bread for the world, enough to be Christ´s hands. Let the transubstantiation and clever spake-brake-make-take rhymes be. God´s abundance of love is enough.