Thursday 20 June 2019: Corpus Christi
Thanksgiving for Holy Communion
Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11: 22-26; Luke 9: 11 to 17
By Robin Gibbons
Greek-Catholic Melkite Chaplain in the UK, Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford and Director of Studies for OUDCE Oxford
Context: Sunday Mass in a large London convent chapel setting which is open to a varied community of sisters, students and families from various countries as well as the UK
Aim: to encourage engagement with faith in a mature manner so that we can live it out in an informed way!
Attachment to things we love dearly isn’t a bad thing, and when it comes to much loved aspects of our Christian faith and life it’s helpful because it allows us to hold onto meanings and express them in some external way. Here’s non-contentious example from the more catholic-minded tradition, it’s about expressions of belief seen in actions, such as signing ourselves with the cross. We do it without thinking, but we instinctively know it’s a sign of our faith. Many Christians don’t use it in the way Catholics, some Anglicans and Orthodox do, but making that small sign and using the name of the Triune God is a very real and deep expression of faith. However even that sign can cause contention, especially if you are for a more aniconic side of the Church-and that is my first point, too close an attachment can also be negative, unhealthy because just as in a relationship, co-dependency or dependency in faith matters brings with it all forms of problems, lack of growth lack of individuation, inability to think for oneself, narrowness of vision and so forth.
This concerns me more and more as I see people who haven’t a clue about our faith culture, for whom ‘Corpus Christi’ might mean a Texas town or an Oxbridge College, so when you are asked what on earth does this feast mean for YOU, how do you respond? I’m not going to tell you, but I am going to look at this celebration from another angle, taking us well away from the much-loved piety surrounding this festival, (nothing wrong with that after all!) and examine it from a different theological angle.
Why? Because it’s about time we really started to examine just what Christ was doing in giving us what we now call the Eucharist. If we do not step out from the dependency on lovely piety and imagery to get behind what it’s really about we cannot ever really encounter the mystery of Christ who taking such ordinary things, food and drink enables us to attach to them his gift, his life, his love! Let’s follow Luke in exploring this alternative story.
As in all the Scriptures God is involved in a call and response with humans, trying to get us to LISTEN, and then go on our journey of faith, so in Luke 9:11, Jesus welcomed the crowds ‘and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.’ That’s the start, we need discover in TS Eliot’s wonderful phrase found in his poem, Little Gidding: ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ We need the excitement of the journey so that we can find new horizons, not fearing anything but finding that what we have is the healing of memories and forgiveness of sin. Before we can understand those two words Corpus Christi, The Body of Christ we need to hear God speaking to us, we need to listen and then go, follow and its only then when we are moving, that we realise certain things, as a people, as a person I should be hungry for the values of the Kingdom, I should hunger and thirst and yearn for that manna in the desert and the waters of life.
Where do we find it? Let Luke take up the story; ‘Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”’
He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’ (Lk 9; 12,13) That stark command to the disciples is the cutting of an umbilical cord, the letting go and growing up of Christ’s disciples, they must provide, they must feed, but how? Then it comes, by gathering, by uniting, by calling on the One, who when two or three gather in his name is in their midst and who through us now and others to come does something wonderful, feeds us with the food of eternal life. This is what happens now as we his body, break the bread of life and share the cup of salvation; ‘looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied.’ (Lk 9:16,17)
And so shall we!
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