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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Spirit and the Eucharist

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It is noteworthy within Andrewes' Whitsun sermons of his emphasis on the role of the Spirit in communicating sacramental grace. It seems to me that in either the East or the West, the Church can agree that what holds the essence and efficacy of the sacramental benefits and graces is the bond of unity in the Spirit who holds all things together. I offer an example of Andrewes' thoughts from a sermon preached on Whitsun.

A Sermon preached before the King’s Majesty at Windsor, on the Twelfth of May, A.D. MDCXI being Whit-Sunday.

Text: John 16.7

In this sermon Andrewes unites the two feasts of Ascension, Christ’s going, and Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s coming. Within this text is the promise of coming and the coming of the promise. It is the coming of the Spirit that avails all that we have in Christ according to Andrewes. There shall be great inconveniences for the Spirit not coming if Christ remains. One such important inconvenience for Andrewes was the Spirit’s union with the Sacraments in order to make them avail the grace they offer. Andrewes gathers that without the Spirit none of the means of grace given to the Church avail any blessing. He says non veniet?
1. Not Baptism [John 3.5]; for nisi ex Spiritu, if He come not, well may it wash soil from our skin, but no stain from our soul; no “laver of regeneration” [Titus 3.5] without “renewing of the Holy Ghost.” [2 Corinthians 3.6] 2. No preaching neither; for that is but “a letter that killeth,” except the Spirit come too and quicken it. 3. No Sacrament [John 6.63] we have a plain text for it, “the flesh profiteth nothing,” if the Lord and Giver of life, the Spirit, be away. 4. To conclude, no prayer; for nisi, ‘unless’ the Spirit help our infirmity, and maketh intercession with us, [Romans 8.26] we neither know how, nor what to pray. So the Spirit must come to all, and it goeth through; neither can aught be done for us, or by us without it.
The benefit of the coming of the Spirit is for Him to be our comforter and counsellor in all of our life. The great benefit of Him is to be sent and received in the Holy Mysteries. There is a spiritual meat and a spiritual drink and it is communicated by the Eucharist.
…in which kind there is none so apt to procreate the Spirit in us as that flesh and blood which was itself conceived and procreate by the Spirit, and therefore full of spirit and life to them that partake it. It is sure to invite and allure the Spirit to come, there is no more effectual way; none, whether Christ will send Him, or whether He will come more willingly, that to the presence of the most holy mysteries. And mainly at this feast, concerning which our Saviour Christ’s voice is to sound in our ears, Si quis sitiat, veniat ad Me; “if any thirst, let him come to me and drink, which He meant and spake,” saith St. John, “of the Spirit,” which was to begin at that time especially, when He was newly glorified.
It is through the receiving of the holy Mystery of the Eucharist that we receive the Holy Spirit and by receiving Him, we receive Christ. It is as guests at the altar that the Spirit of comfort and counsel is communicated to them that partake of Christ by the Eucharist.

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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

Societas Sanctae Crucis

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