Thursday 23 June – Holy Communion at St Giles
Reading 1 Corinthians 11.23-26
I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Gospel John 6.51-58
I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord.
Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever.
When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.
Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.
Corpus Christi – lit. Body of Christ – Day of Thanksgiving for Holy Communion. Held on Thursday after Trinity. Thursday – because of association with Last Supper and events of Maundy Thursday.
Many parts of Catholic world there are processions in the streets. Dates back to 13C when an Augustinian nun from Liege petitioned her bishop for a feast associated with veneration of blessed sacrament.
Last year, Vicky and I walked through part of Italy about 2 hrs. N of Rome. Came to place called Bolsena, where in 13C said to have been a miracle when bread used for Mass started to bleed. Association with this alleged miracle that Corpus Christi became firmly established.
Differs from Maundy Thursday, in that before Easter the liturgy commemorates Christ’s new commandment -"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you." John 13:34, also the washing of the disciples' feet, the Garden of Gethsemane. For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi might be associated mainly with RC and Anglo - Catholic parishes, but to dismiss it for that reason would be a mistake. Our understanding of Holy Communion and what it means to us has always been a struggle for many of us. What is going on? Is it a commemoration of certain events commanded by Christ that we should re-enact and remember, or is it much more than that? The answer depends on your church tradition. The answer is probably all those things, but our outlook and background tends to make us lean in one direction rather than the other.
Whatever our tradition, Holy Communion has in recent decades moved from a monthly service to a liturgy that is central to our worship, so for that reason alone we should think about what we are doing, what it means to us, how we are changed by it, and why it is so special. If we don’t pause and think on these things, for example today, then attending a weekly communion risks becoming routine, a liturgy so familiar that we can cruise through it, like I was saying about the Lord’s Prayer last week – it’s import can be submerged by sheer familiarity.
So after our prayers, let’s try this week to experience afresh and anew the Eucharist, to find new meaning and significance in it, and to make it truly special once again. Amen