1 Corinthians 11:23-26
11:23 For 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,
11:24 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.”
11:25 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.”
11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Matthew 26:19 & 20, 26-30
26: 19 So the disciples prepared the Passover meal.
26:20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;
26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
26:27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;
26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
26:29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
26:30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN
I am going to do something exceptional. Something I don’t ordinarily do. But these are extraordinary times, that challenge us to shift, stretch & grow, doing things we hadn’t considered before. What I am doing is using an alternate text to the one ordinarily prescribed for this evening’s feast (John 13:1-17, 31b-35). There is so much that happens in the Maundy Thursday liturgy, it like all of Holy Week & these times we currently find ourselves in, are overwhelming. I at least partially do so because I want to focus particularly on the Eucharist & especially in the context of these extraordinary times. Consequently I have preferred for our consideration a portion of the text from St. Matthew’s Passion we read past Sunday, so I haven’t deviated too far afield. The scripture is as noted above, Matthew’s version of the celebration of the first Eucharist.
Unfortunately we are currently unable to gather. Gathering of the Faithful is one of the key constitutive elements of the Eucharist. No Holy Gathering no Eucharist. The BAS (page 85) not incidentally begins the service under the superscription, “The Gathering of the Community”. As the Orthodox & the Reformers bear witness there can be no such thing as a private Mass. The responsive nature of the very Liturgy itself bears testimony. The Liturgy is a reciprocal dialogue, a dance, between priest & people.: “The Lord be with you.”…” And also with you.” Just as certainly as there can be no Eucharist without the constitutive elements of bread & wine, & there can be no Eucharist without an appropriately ordered presbyter, there is no Eucharist without the community. These are necessary essentials. Unlike the televangelists, we cannot separately hold our bits of bread & individual glasses of liquid up against the TV or computer screen as an absent cleric virtually recites the Verba from afar. There can be no such thing as a virtual Eucharist. The Eucharist requires us. No (holy) community, no (holy) communion. No Eucharist without communion. No consecration without a participation. Assembly has temporarily been suspended at our (arch)bishop’s direction & in the interests of the well being of all, particularly the most vulnerable among us. But many of us like Jesus in the gospels are longing for Holy Communion. ” Jesus said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ (Luke 22: 15-18). The Greek word Jesus uses to express his longing (repeated twice no less, for even more emphasis!) means “violent desire” or “impure desire”, “to set the heart upon”, “to covet” or “to lust after”. It is a crass desire. It, like the words Jesus uses in John 6 about eating (munching, gnawing) his flesh is meant to be disturbing. It is not a sanitized, spiritualized, virtual, politically correct longing. It is tangible, substantial, gritty. Jesus lusts after the pascha meal of the kingdom. Jesus is hungrily yearning for the bread of the reign of God, thirsting for the cup of the kingdom. Jesus is yearning that God’s kingdom might come, bring it on, bring on the feast of God’s reign! “Thy kingdom come!” Jesus taught his disciples to pray & at each Eucharist immediately following, completing the prayer consecrating the elements of bread & wine, the Faithful join our voices to His as we pray the “Our Father…” When we longingly pray that the reign of God might become manifest amongst us as we add “Thy will be done here on earth as it is done in the Heavenly realm.” “O thou, who at thy first Eucharist didst pray that all thy church might be for ever one, grant us at every Eucharist to say with longing heart and soul, ‘Thy will be done’: O may we all one bread, one body be, through this blest sacrament of unity.” (Common Praise #57). There is a sense of incompletion at each Eucharist, a now & but not yet. This is the difficult in between time. A in the meanwhile… It is disturbing & dissatisfying. We want satiation now. During this meanwhile time when we are unable to assemble & our Eucharist troublingly interrupted Jesus invites us into participation in His lusty longing for feast to come. We are the communion, the “communio sanctorum”, the holy people of God beckoned to & hungry for the banquet of God’s reign.
At our Cathedral the invitation to Communion in the service folder declares, “If you know the brokenness of life, its fractures within & its divisions without, then you have participated in the broken body of Christ & you are invited to share in the breaking of bread. If you desire to know the love of God that overcomes indifference & despair, if you desire the reconciliation that overcomes estrangement & alienation then you are invited to share the cup of the new covenant.”
“Let the vineyards be fruitful Lord, & fill to the brim our cup of blessing, gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the Bread of Life, gather the hopes & dreams all, unite them to the prayers we offer, grace our table with Your Presence & give us a foretaste of the feast to come.” -Offertory Lutheran Book of Worship