Today is the feast day of ‘Corpus Christi’ – when many parts of the Church across the world will give thanks for Christ’s Institution of Holy Communion, and all that it means and has meant over time for the Church.
‘The Body of Christ’ – those words I speak as I pass a piece of the broken host bread to eat communicant at the rail or around the altar. ‘The Body of Christ’ – I hear each time I receive that precious bread from the hands of another priest.
The Body of Christ – both the bread as commanded by the Lord, and the persons sharing it – taking, blessing, breaking, giving, receiving – an exchange blessed by God – painful in its inadequacy, a tiny, faint foreshadowing – even at the most glorious High Mass- of that feast at the end of days- when all are safely gathered in.
Painful in its minuteness – like a butterfly’s wing in place of all creation – and painful in its accuracy and appropriateness – as the broken body of Christ is received by the broken body of Christ’s Church. As the blessed and broken and oh so precious fragments are received into the bodies and hearts of a blessed and broken and precious people.
Perhaps I am greedy for God or perhaps the weight of broken fragments of millennia rest too heavily upon my heart as a priest of this generation, but I never receive communion without a sense of unfulfilled longing. And I too am a penitent sinner so I carry also a conflicted desire both to stay, like Mary, and receive more- and also like Judas, to take the bread, and up and away in haste, and be about the World’s business.
But I am indeed grateful for the institution of the Lord’s supper – grateful beyond words- that here at last, of God on earth there is something weird and tangible – a true memorial- both as transient as a passing breeze and as endless as the tide – a physical message of a hope beyond all telling, medicine for the life that ails us all – and an unseen exchange whereby the bride in faithful obedience sets a table for the Lord of life, and endlessly invites the world to dine.
God is Spirit- and to worship we must worship in Spirit and in Truth – but Christ is also fully human – solid and suffering, drawn together of the same clay as his creation-and all too often our faith becomes cerebral merely…a thought experiment that does not turn our hearts or hands to ventures in Christ’s name. In the Eucharist, in this bread and this cup we are reminded that our faith is also tangible – unavoidably shared– and that with those whom GOD is calling, not with our chosen dinner guests – and it is also a foolish statement in the eyes of the world: again and again to gather, bless and break bread- But it is by this act that followers of Christ are most often known to one another- not only when we gather in church- but when we gather elsewhere to bless and break and share bread… the many unplanned sacraments of a thoughtful life shared with and physically caring for others.
But still I always leave the holy meal unsatisfied… and I think that is right – except for those who know they are dying, for whom comfort and consolation in the sacrament are a practical foretaste of the banquet at which they shall next dine in glory… except for them… this is a meal on the run.
We dine dressed for travel – we dine because we are called, and when we are dismissed it is not to rest and hunger no more but it is to love and serve the Lord. We are still wayfarers here… those who eat in public, beside the path, and then keep moving on. It is important as we travel daily, to remember that and to be bold in sharing our bread – spiritual and physical- with others who travel life’s road beside us.
So I still leave each Eucharist encouraged, but unsatisfied… pepped up but not settled. And we will not be settled, until we eat together with the Lord.
I heard a wonderful line today- in the midst of a moving funeral address actually- Tony was a wine lover and used to travel all the way across France to taste directly at the vineyards themselves- and he used to say ” You’ve never really tasted a wine, until you’ve tasted it gazing into the eyes of its maker”
” You’ve never really tasted a wine – until you’ve tasted it gazing into the eyes of its Maker”.
I can’t wait for that day.