Years ago, before I was ordained, I was asked to read the second lesson during an evening service of the Holy Eucharist. It was the first time I had been asked to read in church and the passage chosen – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – happened to include the earliest record of one of Jesus’ sayings. (The letters of St Paul pre-date the gospel writings). As I stood at the lectern that evening and read, I felt the honor of repeating the words once spoken by Jesus: words which were as relevant now as they were when Jesus first said them. Here is the passage from Paul’s letter:
“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Whenever I read this now, I recall the famous paean to the Eucharist from The Shape of the Liturgy, written by the Benedictine monk and scholar Dom Gregory Dix. It begins: “Was ever another command so obeyed?” The command of Jesus – not to battle but to fellowship and remembrance – has for centuries shaped our human history in ways known and unknown. In every Eucharist we receive Jesus anew, as a perpetual offering in the sacrament of his body and blood; it is at once a simple meal and also a deep and abiding mystery.
Our sharing in Jesus’ body and blood unites us to him and to each other. We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ through confessing Jesus as Lord and being nourished by the sacrament of the Eucharist. That makes the Eucharist central to our life and worship as practicing Christians.
This is good for our souls, and for our salvation. But God is also seeking to incorporate into his kingdom the lost, the struggling, the fallen, and the needy. This gathering work can only be achieved through the body of Christ. Who are they? All who share in his body and blood, his flesh given “for the life of the world.” By bringing Jesus into your life in this way, you become the living bread, life for the whole world.
With love and gratitude