06 Jun Corpus Christie-June 3rd, 2018
Deacon Blaine Barclay
Today is the feast of the Eucharist, the great thanksgiving, Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Introduced as a universal feast by Pope Urban IV in the thirteenth century. In the same century, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the famous hymn for this festival that we sing to this day, ’Pange Lingua’. The fourth verse of this hymn says,
’By his word of the Word almighty
Makes of bread his flesh indeed;
Wine becomes his very life blood;
Faith Gods living
word must heed!
Faith alone may safely guide us
Where the senses cannot lead’.
Such a beautiful hymn to the Word made flesh.
But the roots of this feast, the Eucharist itself, go back much further than the 13th century. The meaning of the Eucharist is firmly rooted in our Jewish past. It was in the middle of a Passover meal that Jesus took bread and broke it, gave it to his disciples to eat, and said, ’This is my Body’; took the cup of wine, give it to his disciples to drink, and said, ’This is my Blood’.
The Passover meal itself is rooted in the experience of the Jewish people being set free from slavery in Egypt. For us, Jesus is identified was the sacrificed Passover lamb, both slain and eaten, and the unleavened Passover bread that was made in haste because they were fleeing the bitterness of slavery. To this day the heart of the Eucharistic prayer is rooted in the Jewish prayer of blessing, ‘Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu’, ‘Blessed are you O Lord our G_d’.
In our first reading we see that, ’’Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord’. It is their response to this Word that is decisive for us, they say, ’’All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do’. This is repeated twice by way of emphasis. To this same end, the letter of James reminds us, ’Be doers of the Word and not hearers only’. Moses, who for us represents Christ in our midst, feeds us with the Bread of God’s Word’. Our response is to be doers of this word, a word that becomes flesh, then and now. It is in this readiness for obedience to the word of God that the people of God are sprinkled with the Blood of the Covenant. For us this also represents the Blood of Christ ’poured out for the many’, for the forgiveness of sins.
The Jewish scriptures, the Old Testament are filled with Eucharistic undertows. From the Manna in the desert, the bread from heaven that sustained the freed slaves in their 40 year journey to the promised land. To the bread and oil that fed the Prophet Elijah for 40 days. To the bread of the presence In the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies. All these events point forward to their fulfillment in the person of Jesus and his great gift to us, the Eucharist
And finally, we come to the Last Supper itself, a Passover meal, but more than a Passover meal. An act of re-membrance that makes present in the here and now, the saving deeds of the past, but more than this, the definitive passing over from life, through death, to life again. The death and resurrection of Christ, ’Body broken’, ’Blood poured out’. ‘Do this in memory of me’. A memory that reaches not just into the past but into an anticipated future, a promise fulfilled, a sustained presence. ’I will be with you until the end of the age’.
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a dynamic personal presence, the original saving events of Jesus’ Paschal mystery, namely his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, are alive and made present in the here and now whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. Whereas all the other sacraments are about Jesus, point to Jesus, and make sense only in relationship to Jesus. The Eucharist is Jesus. As one author puts it. ’’This sacrament contains in itself all the graces and effects of the other sacraments, and is indeed, the cause of all the other sacraments’’. The Eucharist is our Manna in the desert, our Bread in the wilderness, our paschal sacrifice that sets us free and makes us whole.
The Eucharist is the Body of Christ that transforms us into the Body of Christ, a broken body, the brokenness of Jesus, broken for us and for the world, joined forever to our brokenness, turning us into the Bread of God, food for the world, a broken world hungry for the Word made Flesh. His flesh, your flesh. Eucharist!