Taste and See: The true Bread

IMG_3785 Lourdes 2008

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, Corpus Christi, was a very brief one. However it is a very important reading, perhaps the Church’s earliest (written) theology of the Eucharist.

Paul stresses that the Eucharist draw us into communion with Christ and into communion with each other. He has learnt this, and certainly teaches is, relying on the authentic symbol of the One Bread shared.

The point is regularly made that this teaching could not be so easily argued from our liturgical practice today. Too often we celebrate not with the one bread, still the ideal promoted in the Roman Missal. The virtue of this is so emphasised that there is insistence that should it be impractical to have one bread consecrated at least some of the faithful should receive communion from the host held/presented by the priest or bishop, and seen by the congregation during the Eucharistic Prayer. Again, sadly this requirement is often neglected. But you might like to read the Instruction – look up paras 319-321 in the Instruction linked to here. We neglect the authenticity of the Church’s liturgical symbols at our peril!

  • Why does it matter that we retain the experience of their being one bread from which we all eat?
  • Why does the Church require that the bread used at Mass should be recently made and truly have the appearance of food?

 

One of the ‘lower’ Stations of the Cross, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

 

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Taste and see: Praise the Lord

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On Corpus Christi a Sequence is set to be sung as part of the Liturgy of the Word. A setting of the Latin text can be heard here.

Sing forth, O Zion, sweetly sing
The praises of thy Shepherd-King,
In hymns and canticles divine;
Dare all thou canst, thou hast no song
Worthy his praises to prolong,
So far surpassing powers like thine.

Today no theme of common praise
Forms the sweet burden of thy lays –
The living, life-dispensing food –
That food which at the sacred board
Unto the brethren twelve our Lord
His parting legacy bestowed.

Then be the anthem clear and strong,
Thy fullest note, thy sweetest song,
The very music of the breast:
For now shines forth the day sublime
That brings remembrance of the time
When Jesus first his table blessed.

Within our new King’s banquet-hall
They meet to keep the festival
That closed the ancient paschal rite:
The old is by the new replaced;
The substance hath the shadow chased;
And rising day dispels the night.

Christ willed what he himself had done
Should be renewed while time should run,
In memory of his parting hour:
Thus, tutored in his school divine,
We consecrate the bread and wine;
And lo – a Host of saving power.

This faith to Christian men is given –
Bread is made flesh by words from heaven:
Into his blood the wine is turned:
What though it baffles nature’s powers
Of sense and sight? This faith of ours
Proves more than nature e’er discerned.

Concealed beneath the two-fold sign,
Meet symbols of the gifts divine,
There lie the mysteries adored:
The living body is our food;
Our drink the ever-precious blood;
In each, one undivided Lord.

Not he that eateth it divides
The sacred food, which whole abides
Unbroken still, nor knows decay;
Be one, or be a thousand fed,
They eat alike that living bread
Which, still received, ne’er wastes away.

The good, the guilty share therein,
With sure increase of grace or sin,
The ghostly life, or ghostly death:
Death to the guilty; to the good
Immortal life. See how one food
Man’s joy or woe accomplisheth.

We break the Sacrament, but bold
And firm thy faith shall keep its hold,
Deem not the whole doth more enfold
Than in the fractured part resides
Deem not that Christ doth broken lie,
’Tis but the sign that meets the eye,
The hidden deep reality
In all its fullness still abides.

– – – – – –

*Behold the bread of angels, sent
For pilgrims in their banishment,
The bread for God’s true children meant,
That may not unto dogs be given:
Oft in the olden types foreshowed;
In Isaac on the altar bowed,
And in the ancient paschal food,
And in the manna sent from heaven.

*Come then, good shepherd, bread divine,
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us still, still keep us thine;
So may we see thy glories shine
In fields of immortality;

*O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present food, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
Amen. Alleluia.

The generous length of the song means that there is an alternative briefer form. However regularly the song seems to be omitted completely. This is perhaps understandable, but also a matter of regret.

Often there is a desire to make the Liturgy, and God, fit our needs rather than put ourselves out to rise to the challenges set before us…

Enjoy the song and give thanks to God, and if you did omit the song yesterday wonder why….

Tabernacle. Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bread of Life

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Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

The First reading at Mass today, the feast of Corpus Christi, refers us to God’s feeding of Israel with manna, during their long journey from enslavement to the Promised Land. The food and the journey are viewed by Christians as types for, anticipations that will be fulfilled by,  the Eucharist and our salvation in Christ.

The gift we receive is greater than that offered to Israel. And yet the fruitfulness of our reception of it lies equally in doubt.

The feast of Corpus Christi provides us with further reason to pause and take stock on how carefully we receive the gifts of God and how we try to live them for our good and the good of all.

Detail from altar and sanctuary in chapel of St Bernadette, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

 

 

Speak Lord: Heal the city

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O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates
he has blessed the children within you.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
and swiftly runs his command.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He makes his word known to Jacob,
to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
he has not taught them his decrees.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

Psalm 147:12-15,19-20

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow celebrates Jerusalem and God’s care for the city and its people.

Etymologically Jerusalem means ‘city of peace’. It is a name sadly belied by its present division and the violence born of occupation and resistance,. The present situation echoes a long history of earlier wars and political settlements with their victors and victims.

And yet Jerusalem remains a place for encounter between God and the faithful (Jew, Christian, Muslim and others), and a place of hope. If in Jerusalem we see the scars of human failings, it is in the mysteries revealed in Jerusalem that we seek the ways of healing for our future here that we hope will prove stepping stones to heaven also.

God helps us to safety, but we may not leave it all to God, taking the psalm at a naively literal level. God helps us also to know that he is God not only of the ‘literal’ Jerusalem but also God of the nations, called to a new unity in Christ.

Jerusalem – Mount Moriah across site of former city of David. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Loving food

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The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The second reading  at Mass on Sunday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, speaks to some of the core truths about the Eucharist. It reminds us that the Eucharist is about communion with Christ and communion with each other, through Christ.

Controversy about the Eucharist and subsequent development of doctrine has led the Western Church, at least, to a certain preoccupation with the ‘what’ of the Eucharist and a neglect of the ‘why’.

The Eucharist surely is, as Christ said, his Body and his Blood. It is he himself, present for us as food and drink. But there lies the clue to the why of the Eucharist: this is Christ present as food and drink for us, to nourish us for life.

That life is found in communion with him and fulfilled when we live our life lovingly and for the lives of others. It is a life nourished by the gift of the life of God in flesh, of the divine Son begotten before the ages, and united with our humanity in Jesus of Nazareth. It is a life we begin to live now and that finds its completion in eternal life.

  • How do you live from the holy food that Christ is?

Grave marker of a priest in the graveyard of St Giles, Cheadle. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bread of Life

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Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:51-58

Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). The Gospel we hear is drawn from the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John.

We hear the words of Jesus, familiar with the Sacrament of the Eucharist. So we are not likely to mistake Jesus words for an advocacy of cannibalism. But pity those who first heard them – how else could they have understood them?

But, perhaps those who knew him best would be able to understand the metaphor Jesus applies to himself – that he is the living bread. Perhaps they could know from their experience of his love and care for them and others, his self-sacrifice for their sake; his radical obedience to the will of the Father that he has been and is bread for their eating; wisdom for their guidance, the living word of God for their salvation.

Jesus is this for them and us, but not in words only, not in inspiration only, but in the very fact and physicality of his humanity, in its particularity and in its service of his Father and his neighbour.

The Last Supper. Eglise St Lauren, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: faithful praise

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You are blest, Lord God of our fathers.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
Blest your glorious holy name.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

You are blest in the temple of your glory.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest on the throne of your kingdom.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

You are blest who gaze into the depths.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest in the firmament of heaven.
To you glory and praise for evermore.

Daniel 3:52-55

The Responsorial Psalm on Trinity Sunday, Sunday of this week, came from the prophet Daniel. As reminded last week it is a song sung in dire circumstances, but trusting in the God of Glory.

We face dire situations again and again, in our personal lives, in our lives in community. The response of faith is always to give praise to God – not for the dire situation (!), but that in all we remain God’s beloved children, cared for and cherished by him. We often have much to endure, but that will never be the end. The end is his love and his safeguarding – of us and all, we pray. And from that comes hope and a certain ability to endure – and a capacity to share hope and faith. It is often far from easy – but it is our call and, sometimes, we realise it is our privilege.

  • When and how have your struggles helped you to lived faith?
  • Where and why have they hindered faith?

Throne of Mercy – medieval wall painting. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Called to unity

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May receiving this Sacrament, O Lord our God,
bring us health of body and soul,
as we confess your eternal holy Trinity and undivided Unity.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

One of the briefest prayers at Mass on Sunday, Trinity Sunday, the Prayer after Communion beautifully summarises the mystery of God and the challenge for us.

God is three and God is one: a mystery which defies logic and mathematics. Each of us is one person but, gosh, we are so often divided within and from our self.

For God the diversity achieves perfect expression in unity. So too for us, but we have not got there yet – our heart and our mind are in different places; our body and soul too. God works to unite us, each of us, so we become ourselves, entire, whole, and holy. And then God seeks to draw us together in community with each other and with him.

It is through our perception of God in his glory and humility; and in our reception of his grace in its manifold forms that we are helped to health, and made fit for eternal life.

  • What best moves you to contemplation of God, and how do you try to make the most of this?
  • What helps you to know yourself better, and how do you make the most of this?

Icon,  featured in exhibition in Château des ducs de Bretagne Nantes, 2016. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Compassion and care

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Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.’

John 3:16-18

The Gospel heard at Mass yesterday, Trinity Sunday, contains famous words of reassurance and consolation.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.

In this is our hope and our salvation.

However the Gospel passage continues with words that speak, and warn of condemnation for those who refuse to believe, who do not, will not, cannot accept what is offered. So is it salvation for those who believe and condemnation, damnation, for those who doubt?

The Gospel suggests that at the end of the day it could be so. But the end of the day is not yet, and in every moment the Lord comes, is with us, to draw us from our fears, doubts and darkness. By love he seeks to win us. And there is no sign yet, that he will ever give up on trying to win us for life and love.

  • Give thanks for the persistence and humility of God

The saving of humankind. St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Forgiving Lord

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With the two tablets of stone in his hands, Moses went up the mountain of Sinai in the early morning as the Lord had commanded him. And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

Exodus 34:4-6,8-9

The first reading at Mass today speaks of God’s self-revelation in a personal presence to Moses.

God allows himself to be known, personally present to Moses, and present as tenderness and compassion, kindness and faithfulness…

Israel, and often enough Christians too, know God through law and custom. But to Moses, and to us all, God seeks to reveal himself through personal presence, drawing us into personal and direct relationship with him. Through this personal presence God helps us better to know ourselves. and drawing us into a fuller realisation of ourselves.

Our deeper self-knowledge will often enough have to begin with a new awareness of our faults, our sins and all. But all this is, by God’s will, met with God’s mercy and love.

Floor mosaic. Church of Beatitudes, Galilee. (c) 2017, Allen Morris