Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mid-Lent: The Eucharist as Refreshment

For us as we approach the Fourth Sunday in Lent...

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us, beckons us, to refreshment this day as we take a hopefully well-deserved pause from our Lenten discipline, and lighten the mood with the festal vestments and colour of rose. It is time to allow Christ to refresh us, and to take away our burdens, and to renew us, as we yet offer ourselves in self-denial and penance. The Lord desires us to turn to Him, and Him alone, to Him who is the true refreshment of the human person. Christ is our rest, our renewal, our new Life.

He speaks of Himself in comforting terms, as One who nourishes, who refreshes, who revitalises, and ever makes new.

‘Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ ‘But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.’ ‘He who followeth me shall have the light of life.’

The classic definition of refreshment is simply - to make stronger, more energetic, to replenish, to renew, to revive, to re-enliven.

Jesus Christ, Who is Life and Light, revivifies the body and soul, restoring to man’s nature and being the very Life of God, divine grace, making us partakers of the communion of God’s life - the Life God gives, receives and shares eternally as the Tri-Hypostatic Communion of Love, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Christ communicates to man the life of the Trinity, unending life, everlasting life, eternal life.

Christ offers Himself to us as our ‘re-fresh-ment,’ the One who restores, who makes whole, who makes us new and alive.

Jesus says: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.' Life.

Jesus Christ is the New Life. Jesus has come, he says, so that we may ‘have life, and have it more abundantly.’

On Refreshment Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Holy Church proffers once again an opportunity to meditate on the greatest and most sublime of all God’s gifts to us on earth, the most unfathomable of mysteries, the Holy Eucharist, the true living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the verity of which is summarised in Saint John’s Gospel, chapter 6. The New Moses gives the New People of God the New Manna, the Bread from heaven, to refresh those who are weary, to feed them supernaturally.

The unforgettable feeding of the five thousand, the feeding miracle of Our Lord so familiar to us, actually reveals to us a dimension of our lives as Christians which we perhaps infrequently examine: Jesus Christ refreshes, renews, energises, revitalises us as members of His mystical Body the Church, through the Holy Eucharist, which is nothing less but the entire Person of Our Lord, God and Man, under the form of bread and wine. The Eucharist makes each one of us personally one with God and with one another. The Eucharist feeds us with Divine Life.

The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, creates and sustains the Church, which is Christ’s own Body. The Eucharist is the Lord’s Own Service, the supreme act of Christian worship to be faithfully attended every Lord’s Day. It is not just a symbol or a sign - it is Jesus Christ Himself. It is our Sacramental God, present to us under the veil of a mystery. It is our refreshment, our life, our source of being. The Eucharist is the closest any of us will ever come to God this side of heaven. The Holy Eucharist is truly ‘heaven on earth.’

The historical event of the Last Supper, the New Passover, which fulfils the prefigure, the coming attraction of the feeding of the five thousand, is daily reproduced on the Altars of the Holy Catholic Church: Jesus comes to us in that Holy Sacrament which the feeding miracle is intended to image and prophesy for us. However St John 6 carries us back to the Old Testament, Exodus chapter 16, the institution of God’s Passover meal and covenant.

Manna - what is it? - the heavenly bread with which God miraculously fed the children of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus Christ is the Bread from Heaven, the Bread of God of which if anyone eats of It, he shall live forever. Receiving Holy Communion is renewal, re-creation, the gift of eternal life. The Eucharist should be the nourishment and stay of our daily lives, the meat and drink of our supernatural existence in Christ.

We must eat Christ’s Flesh and drink His Blood in Holy Communion in order to be saved and have eternal life. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ, not just of the Church Fathers or the medieval theologians. The Supper of the Lord is generally necessary to salvation (BCP, 581).

Saint John 6 sums it all up:

‘Verily, verily, I say unto you: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him.’

Echoed in the writing of that genius of Anglicanism, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the truth is reiterated in the Eucharistic liturgy of the Anglican Church; ‘Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.’

The Eucharist is refreshment, nourishment for the body and the soul, an often-neglected teaching of our sacred Faith.

The Anglican Prayer Book Catechism, an authoritative document, teaches:

Q: What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby in the Holy Communion?

A: The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.

What precisely are Anglicans to believe about the Holy Eucharist, our Refreshment, our true Manna which feeds us unto eternal life? The Prayer Book calls the Eucharist ‘these holy mysteries.’ It cannot be defined - we cannot define the indefinable. We can only maintain a reverential awe in the face of such mystery.

From Queen Elizabeth I, a reasonably Anglican voice, we hear:

Christ was the Word that spake it. He took the bread and brake it. And what His word doth make it, I do believe and take it.

Ours is not a religion based on a system of ethics or morality, ours is not a sophisticated philosophical school or lyceum of ideas, ours is not a mutual appreciation society -- our religion is a Person, ours is a religion of the God-Man Jesus Christ. Ours is a religion with a Body broken and Blood shed, a Blood-bought religion, a Body religion. And that Body broken and Blood shed are given to us every day through the hands of Christ’s chosen men, His apostolic ministers, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus Christ is the Refreshment of all men.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Anglicanism - Western Orthodoxy


When, in the sixteenth century, ecclesia Anglicana – ‘the English Church’ – was reformed, those, like Bishop John Jewel, who defended that reformation, did so not by saying it was adapted to contemporary culture, but by a return to the faith and order of the early church. Very deliberately, unlike the Protestant reformers of continental Europe, the Church of England maintained the historic, apostolic, three-fold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. The Church of England did not abandon the historic apostolic ministry but sought to reform it. Ever since Anglicans have held that those ordained as bishops, priests and deacons, are ordained as bishops, priests and deacons of the Church of God. Change in that ordering of ministry is therefore a matter not just for the Church of England or the Anglican Communion but for all those churches who claim to share that ministry. Developments in faith and order need this wider reference....

The Anglican patrimony is not just a matter of hymn-books and liturgy, of Evensong and the English choral tradition, important as those things are. It is a sacramental way of living out a catholic identity, expressed in relation to the community and in a wise application of moral ideals to personal and pastoral realities. It is what the churches of the East have sometimes recognized as a Western Orthodoxy. Above all it is about a faithfulness in a way of Christian living that expresses the beauty of holiness, which is about transfiguration into the likeness of Christ, living out the maxim often attributed to St Augustine but originating in the theological conflicts of Reformation Europe – ‘in essentials unity, in doubtful things liberty, and in all things charity.’

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday


The Ash Wednesday Altar at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, with a little sample photograph from last night's Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper.
A blessed and holy Lent to you all!























Friday, March 04, 2011

Moravian-Episcopal Communion

On 10th February 2011, the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in the United States formally entered into a full communion agreement with The Episcopal Church.

During the ceremony of inauguration, the participating bishops of The Episcopal Church laid their hands on the Moravian bishops present, with prayer; immediately beforehand, the Moravian bishops imposed hands on the Episcopal bishops present, with prayer, in the same manner. The act appears to be a mutual recognition of ministries rather than a quasi-ordination rite.

Confusing and perplexing nevertheless.

The Moravian Church does not possess the Sacrament of Holy Orders, but rather a presbyteral succession of ministers:

So they decided to ask Priest Michael to travel to the oldest of the elders of the Waldensiens and to receive from him anew the ordination as priest. They didn't know whether this Waldensien priest would be willing to do so, but if he did, they would consider it a confirmation from God. When Michael returned he would ordain Matthias as their bishop. And that is the way it happened. According to ecclesiastical law Michael admittedly had no power to do so. Only a bishop could exercise the right to ordain, the ius ordinis. But the brothers were of the opinion that according to biblical apostolic order there was no difference between the ordination of a priest and a bishop. The bishop was only differentiated by his duties. Thus Matthias was ordained as bishop among brothers. He then ordained Brother Elias and Brother Thomas as priests. Michael relieved himself of the office of priest and reverted to the status of brother.

What the historical essays demonstrate is that the Moravian Church originated in 1467 at the so-called Synod of Lhotka when some sixty individuals from the Utraquist Church of Bohemia—that more conservative, and by that date the dominant, section of the Hussite movement that accepted most traditional Catholic doctrine, but insisted on communion in two kinds, and that considered itself in communion with Rome, although Rome did not consider itself in communion with them—who wished to distance themselves further from Rome organized themselves into a 'church.' They drew lots to select three men to be their priests. Among the larger group was a Catholic priest; this Catholic priest was then (supposedly) consecrated a bishop by a visiting Waldensian elder, and went on to consecrate as bishop one of the three men selected by lots, who then ordained as priests the other two men so selected. Then the Catholic priest renounced his Catholic orders and was (re)ordained by the man whom he had himself consecrated a bishop—and then the whole lot were rebaptized by their new clergy (for some sixty years they received all converts by baptism, although they practiced infant baptism of their members’ offspring). As the author of the essay, the Anglican Dr. Colin Podmore, writes: 'The Waldensians did not possess the "apostolic succession" as traditionally understood, and, in any case, the Brethren rejected this and wanted nothing to do with it. In obtaining ordination from the Waldensian elder they neither intended to acquire the sign of the historic episcopate nor believed that they had done so.'

They did, however, retain the offices of bishop and priest, and soon revived that of deacon. However, in both 1500 and 1553 their episcopate died out, and new bishops had to be elected and consecrated by their priests, so that the 'episcopal succession' of the Moravian Church goes back only to 1553.



Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Saint Chad of Lichfield


Almighty and everlasting God, who on this day dost gladden us with the feast of blessed Chad thy Confessor and Bishop: we humbly beseech thy mercy; that we which here do honour him with our devout observance, may by his intercession obatin thy healing unto life eternal: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Saint Chad, pray for us!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Saint David of Wales


Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that the devout prayers of blessed David, thy Confessor and Bishop, may in such wise succour and defend us, that we which on this day observe his festival, may follow his constancy in the defence of thy true religion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Saint David, Enlightener of Wales, pray for us!

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