Jesus told his friends to do this, and they have done it always since. Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. No better thing has been found than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the wisdom of a Parliament or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because a father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetish because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for the son of a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so, wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of St Joan of Arc- one could fill many pages with the reasons why this has been done, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the priests have done this just to make the ‘plebs sancta dei’ – the holy common people of God.
Dom Gregory Dix
This wonderful summation of the vocation of the Church – to celebrate and participate in the Eucharist – written long ago by Anglican monk and liturgist Dom. Gregory Dix – has never lost its basic significance.
Jesus said “Do this to re-member me” and the Church catholic has continued the process of re-membering the Body of Christ ever since Jesus (by the power of the Holy Spirit) instituted the Eucharist as the Sacrament of God’s Self, primarily in this re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ.
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”, promised Jesus, “and I will raise them up on the Last Day”. In the meantime, the same offering is to be made on a daily basis by those loyal to Christ, in order for the Church to not only survive but grow into maturity.
The ‘Bread of Angels’ has been given to humankind, in order to restore us into the Image and Likeness of God that was God’s intention for each one of God’s human children. “O Holy Jesus; most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother; may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day”. Amen.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
(temporarily in England)