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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Eucharistic Meditation

The below meditation was written to be on put on the Lent and Beyond site but I do not see that it has been posted so I'll put it here. This was to be the meditation for Maundy Thursday.

In his book For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann writes of the Eucharist as the Sacrament and Symbol of the Kingdom of God breaking in on earth. In summary, he defines the essence of what that Holy night fulfilled in the ushering in of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He writes, …
that the proper function of the ‘leitourgia’ has always been to bring together, within one symbol, the three levels of the Christian faith and life: the Church, the world, and the Kingdom; that the Church herself is thus the sacrament in which the broken, yet still ‘symbolical,’ life of ‘this world’ is brought, in Christ and by Christ, into the dimension of the Kingdom of God, becoming itself the sacrament of the ‘world to come,’ or that which God has from all eternity prepared for those who love Him, and where all that which is human can be transfigured by grace so that all things may be consummated in God; that finally it is here and only here—in the ‘mysterion’ of God’s presence and action—that the Church always becomes that which she is: the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the unique Symbol ‘bringing together’—by bringing to God the world for the life of which He gave His Son. (p.151)
It is important for us to realize that the Eucharist not only gives thanks for a past event, but it also humbly entreats God for the present and the future. It is a meal that draws together all the Saints, past and present. The Eucharist unites time and eternity. On Easter Sunday of 1612, Lancelot Andrewes preached on 1 Cor. 5:7 ff. and worked out a full statement of his Eucharistic theology. Christ is the sacrifice, the Passover feast. “If Christ be a propitiatory sacrifice, a peace-offering, I see not how we can avoid, but the flesh of our peace-offering must be eaten in this feast by us, or else we evacuate the offering utterly, and lose the fruit of it.” The Supper is rightly a memorial action and a receiving of grace. On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus offered Himself over to death for the forgiveness of sins. He did this with bread and wine as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The Eucharist was given as the memorial offering of Christ for the life of the world. Andrewes went on to say in his sermon, “That sacrifice was but once actually performed, at His death: but ever before represented, in figure, from the beginning; and ever since repeated, in memory, to the world’s end.” He concludes his sermon by joining together time and eternity and says,
And we are, in this action, not only carried up to Christ (sursum corda; i.e., lift up your hearts) but, we are also carried back, to Christ; as he was at the very instant, and in the very act of His offering. So, and no otherwise, doth this text teach. So, and no otherwise, do we represent Him. By the very incomprehensible power of His eternal Spirit, not He alone, but he, as at the very act of His offering, is made present to us, and we incorporate into His death, and invested in the benefit of it…
This is the beauty of the mystery that we have in the Holy Eucharist. As we are united together in our prayers and actions in the liturgy of the Church, time and eternity, Christ and the Eucharist meet together and we receive a foretaste of eternity with Christ. As he is one body, it is crucial for us to demonstrate that we are one body by participation in the Holy Sacrament. The bread shown represents this. Seeing that there are many grains mixed together in the one loaf, we who are many are mixed, joined and bound together in such a way that one theologian said, “…by such great agreement of minds that no sort of disagreement or division may intrude.” (1 Cor. 10:16, 17) Therefore, we cannot love Christ without loving him in the brethren. We are called to take care of the whole Body as we take care of our own. We cannot let a brother be affected by evil or hardship without having compassion for him. So St. Augustine called this Sacrament “the bond of love.”

The Eucharist is our food, the essence and source of life in the Church—and it is the sacrificial life offered in this Sacrament that we are called to live by. Alexander Schmemann said, “Each Communion is the end of our movement towards God but also the starting point of our renewed life, the beginning of a new journey through time in which we need Christ’s presence to guide and sanctify our way.” Within the mystery of the Eucharist is revealed the mystery of the Church, “the Body of Christ in which we eternally become what we are called to be.” The Holy Eucharist is the heart of the Church’s life. The Liturgy of the Church is not primarily a symbol of God’s love but the act of the people renewing his love. The Supper was also meant to show forth the mutual love of Christ to us and our love for one another. It is medicine for the sick soul. It inspires us to purity and holiness of life. It is the means to love, peace and concord. The Supper is the place where the Lord communicates his body and blood to us and is made completely one with us and we are united to him. The Holy Supper is the Sacrament of salvation, a Sacrament of unity and love, sanctification, the Church’s sacrifice and ultimately a participation in our future glorification. It is in all of these mysterious expressions that characterize us as Christians and our whole Christian life must be based upon the grace that we receive in the Holy Supper and its commemoration of Christ.

This is my Body, which is given for you; this is my blood of the covenant that has been shed for you. Behold, the Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world!

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

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