The Eucharist

“THE EUCHARIST” Pentecost 12 2021   Year B

Most Anglicans are familiar with the word Eucharist for the Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper or the Mass.

Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia   it’s a word which means to “give thanks” and it comes from the NT where Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper and where he takes bread and “gives thanks” and he takes wine and “gives thanks”.

Those of us who have been brought up in an Anglo- Catholic tradition have come to believe that in this meal Christ is made really, and truly present.  But how is he present?

For those who believe that God is present in all things and in all places, his special presence in the Eucharist should not to be too difficult a concept to grasp

Anglican and Lutheran teaching is that it is “by virtue of the Word of God” Christ is present in the Eucharist.

This understanding of the “true presence” is summed up in a witty ditty attributed to Queen Elizabeth I.

                “T’was God the Word (Jesus) who spoke it;

           he took the bread and broke it;

            and what the Word did make it;

            this I believe and take it.”

Jesus said: ‘This is my body … this is my blood.’ and that is where Anglicans leave it – without entering into metaphysical explanations or appealing to Aristotelian logic.

We simply believe that when we receive the Communion, Jesus comes to each of us personally, it is as though we are the only person in the world at that moment.

The Prayer of Humble Access is a uniquely Anglican prayer which explains this intimacy. (Thomas Cranmer 1548)

 We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord,

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your manifold and great mercies.

We are not worthy

so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.

But you are the same Lord

whose nature is always to have mercy.

Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord,

so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ,

and to drink his blood,

that we may evermore dwell in him,

and he in us.      Amen.

 In every act of Holy Communion, in every Eucharist we are invited to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is in this “Holy Communion” this intimate relationship that we sense his presence.

However – while the Eucharist can be an incredibly intimate and personal experience, we must always remember that the Eucharist is in reality calling us beyond ourselves.

The Testamental cup and the broken body are reminding us of the sacrifice of Christ and calling us to give something of ourselves “sacrificially” in service for others.

When was the last time you did something “sacrificially” for someone else?       And here is the rub!  When was the last time in fact when you did anything for anyone else?

 Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a rule, that when a newcomer arrived to join her Order, the “Missionaries of Charity”, the very next day the newcomer was sent out  to work in the Home for the Dying.

 One day a girl came from outside India to join the Order and  after she had attended her first Mass Mother Theresa went up to her and said: ‘You have seen with your own eyes what love and care the priest showed as he handled the body of Jesus in the bread during the Mass.  Now go to the Home for the Dying and do the same, because it is the same Jesus you will find there in the broken bodies of the poor.’

 Three hours later the newcomer came back excited, and with a big smile, she said; ‘Mother, for three hours I have cared for the poor, I have cared for the body of Jesus.’ ‘

What did you do for Jesus?’ Mother Teresa asked.

 ‘When I arrived,’ she replied, ‘they brought in a man who had fallen into a filthy drain, and been there for some days. He was covered with dirt and had weeping sores.  I washed him and cleaned his wounds. And as I did this I knew I was nursing the body of Christ; that I was indeed, caring for Jesus.’

We are called to make this kind of connection between the God who gives himself to us in the Eucharist and how we go about giving ourselves to others beyond this meal.

Why do we and millions of Christians around the world eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of Salvation?

We do this as an act of Holy Communion or Sacred Fellowship.  We do this so that we may be empowered to move beyond ourselves and engage in loving service for others.

The Eucharist – the meal of “thanksgiving” reminds us that as Christ has given himself for us, so are we called to give of ourselves to God and to others.         AMEN

 

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