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Thursday 30 May 2024 Thanksgiving for Holy Communion (Corpus Christi)

‘Do this in remembrance of me’

Genesis 14:18-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 6:51-58

By Ray Andrews

Anglican Priest and Spiritual Director

Context: a Eucharist involving a small, British congregation in Spain; elderly and from a variety of church backgrounds

Aim: to give thanks for the Holy Communion of all life


As the years pass, I become grateful for, and sometimes frustrated by, memory. I find that things I would like to remember, savour and enjoy become unclear. While other memories, from long ago, return with great clarity. I recall such a memory on this day of thanksgiving for Holy Communion.

During my curacy in London, I had the pleasure of leading a small, weekly Eucharistic service at a care home for the elderly. There were never more than about twelve people attending – all quite frail. Some were able to raise open hands to receive the bread and cup – others were too weak or disabled. On the occasion I remember, I had distributed the host and was preparing to offer the chalice, when I became aware of a disturbance. A care assistant was forcing a wafer into the mouth of a resident who was resisting. The care assistant was forcing it in, and the woman, with equal force, was spitting it out. It was distressing and I intervened, taking and consuming the now soggy wafer, and attempting to calm both resident and care assistant. The elderly woman was confused and assaulted. The care assistant was frustrated in her well-meaning attempt to ensure the woman´s eternal life. But in this sacred act of remembering Jesus, Jesus was forgotten. Or rather, His meaning was forgotten. The incident made a lasting impression on me.


At the Last Supper, when Jesus gave thanks and offered the bread and wine, he was not doing a new thing. In the reading from Genesis, King Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High, brought out bread and wine to Abraham. On this occasion, it was a symbol of victory and celebration, but it was often a symbol of friendship and hospitality. However, at the Passover meal we remember today, Jesus took this familiar act and used it to reveal an entirely new meaning. A revelation of divine intimacy. I doubt that those present understood the mystery that was unfolding. And others, as we hear in John´s Gospel, disputed among themselves, saying: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

In many ways, we have continued to dispute among ourselves. We find mystery difficult. There appears to be a human need to understand: to interpret with certitude. In this way, we have come to understand Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, in different ways. Some of those ways have divided us and we have fiercely defended them. I believe we must forgive ourselves and each other for this.

It seems to me that when Holy Communion becomes detached from its mystery and becomes something that defines membership – who´s in and who´s out - Jesus and His meaning can be forgotten.

Our love of reason and our need for certainty can distract us from the mystery of Christ´s unconditional, self-giving love and abiding presence. Ritual and sacred actions can help us to remember and experience God´s presence. But they can also lead us to forget the mystery of Christ´s constant presence that refuses to be limited by any conditions we may place upon it.


Returning to the incident in the care home, I do not doubt that the care assistant was trying to be faithful to the teaching she had received, understood, or misunderstood. And I do not doubt that the frail resident was hungry for God and that God desired to feed her. But I am suggesting that there is a transcendent truth that can become lost or forgotten. And for me, that truth - that mystery - the mystery we give thanks for today, is that we all dwell in Holy Communion. We abide in the mystery that God is the food, and all we have to do is provide the hunger.

Maybe when we bring our hunger to the Eucharistic meal, we bring not just our own hunger, but the hunger of the world. And maybe we receive not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of all who are unable, or unwilling, or know God by another name. The Holy Communion service we celebrate today is important. These times of intentional remembering are important. But let us also remember and give thanks for the Holy Communion of all life, in all time and place. Amen.

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