Today is the day the church celebrates Corpus Christi – the institution of Holy Communion. While it is not my usual church traddition to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi I am very struck by it today.
We last celebrated Holy Communion together on Sunday March 15th, I too as parish priest made a decsion in March to take a Eucharistic fast rather than preside in an empty building, or my home. It has been strange for us all, not sharing in weekly communion, not joining Jesus in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, not breaking bread on resurrection morning.
As a priest it has been an odd time, in March one of the key things that sustains me and my faith had to go on hold, and yet it was a decsion I do not regret and I look forward longingly for the day when we as God’s family will break bread again.
However, please do not mistake not ‘doing this in remembrance of me’ for thinking the significance of Holy Communion is not still with us. The sacrament of the Eucharist is with me and you in every day life, a friend of mine says “Eucharist is the reason I get out of bed in the morning” and I still agree with those words today, in lockdown as a priest who has not presided at Holy Communion since March.
There are two key moments in the sacrament of Eucharist or Holy Communion that warm my heart, and in new and different ways they still do in this time of lockdown and fast.
Firstly when I preside at communion, I take ordianry bread (well nearly ordinary) and ordinary wine, within that service of Holy Communion it takes on a new life, as we consume that bread and wine together it becomes something holy, something wondrous.
That is the reason to get out of bed in the morning even without access to that holy meal, the beauty of the sacrament is that this is Gods will for you and for me, us ordinary people – he wants to take us and make us into something truly wondrous – the people he created us to be.
God wants to transform our word in the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit for it to be something wondrous – that is what we pray for at the Communion table but also when we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”
Secondly when I distibute Holy Communion it is the great equaliser, whether it is a communion rail, whether people stand before me or I take it to them it reminds us all that we are equal in God’s sight whatever our colour, nationality, sex, sexuality or age.
When those hands reach out for the bread and wine, they are always the hands of someone God loves dearly, someone he would not just fight for, but went to the cross and died for. Even without access to the meal itself this truth rings out this day.
So as I leave you with a hymn for Corpus Christi, dont lament our lack of participation in the meal but trust in its truths and promises and look forward to the day when we can break bread together.
1 Sweet Sacrament divine,
hid in thine earthly home,
lo, round thy lowly shrine,
with suppliant hearts we come;
Jesus, to thee our voice we raise
in songs of love and heartfelt praise:
sweet Sacrament divine.
2 Sweet Sacrament of peace,
dear home for every heart,
where restless yearnings cease
and sorrows all depart;
there in thine ear all trustfully
we tell our tale of misery:
sweet Sacrament of peace.
3 Sweet Sacrament of rest,
ark from the ocean’s roar,
within thy shelter blest
soon may we reach the shore;
save us, for still the tempest raves,
save, lest we sink beneath the waves:
sweet Sacrament ofrest.
4 Sweet Sacrament divine,
earth’s light and jubilee,
in thy far depths doth shine
thy Godhead’s majesty;
sweet light, so shine on us, we pray,
that earthly joys may fade away:
sweet Sacrament divine.*
Your friend and Vicar,
* Francis Stanfield. Public Domain