Thursday is designated as the day of Corpus Christi, the commemoration and celebration of the institution of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. Much credit for recognition of this within the church calendar is attributed to the persistence of Juliana of Liège in the 12th century – a reminder of the difference one person can make. Corpus Christi is a reminder that while the cross is an important symbol of Christian faith, with irony, turning an implement of suffering and death into a sign of resurrection and new life, the Eucharist remembers the new life of resurrection in the sacrifice of Jesus.
The Eucharist certainly deserves this celebration:
- it is a gift which we all share: there are no exclusions in Christ’s invitation to the table;
- in communion, we are offered the chance to be as one, not only with one another, but with Christ: there is unity in sharing this meal as followers of Christ;
- it commemorates a sacrifice through which we are given life: this recalls the last supper of the one who drew human selfishness, violence and sinfulness into focus, allowing those forces to take his life, only to take it back again in the resurrection;
- it leads us from being outcasts to being included in God’s kingdom through pursuit of God’s Word-made-flesh;
- and in the Eucharist, we are offered the chance to become not a people identified with and through sorrow, but with and through Christ’s name.
In and through the Eucharist, we become the community of the body of Christ. We are reminded of Christ’s invitation to his table, where a meal of love is shared. We are invited and called to be the people of new and renewed life in the world.
Edward Taylor, a poet of the late 17th and early 18th centuries composed this, from Preparatory Meditations Before My Approach to the Lord’s Supper:
What love is this of Thine that cannot be
In Thine infinity, O Lord, confined,
Unless it in Thy very person see
Infinity and finity conjoined?
What hath Thy godhead, as not satisfied,
Married our manhood, making it its bride?
Oh matchless love! Filling heaven to the brim!
O’errunning it: all running o’er beside
This world! Nay, overflowing hell; wherein
For Thine elect there rose a mighty tide!
That there our veins might through Thy person bleed,
To quench those flames that else would on us feed.
Oh! that Thy love might overflow my heart!
To fire the same with love: for love I would.
But oh! my straitened breast! my lifeless spark!
My fireless flame! What chilly love, and cold?
In measure small! In manner chilly! See.
Lord, blow the coal: Thy love enflame in me.