Christ’s Eucharistic Presence
Let us pray (in silence) [that through the eucharist we may grow into Christ’s life]
Gracious and merciful God,
in a wonderful sacrament you have given us
a memorial of the passion of your Son
grant that we who receive these sacred mysteries
may grow up into him in all things
until we come to your eternal joy;
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
NZPB p. 586a
Ecumenical discussions and theological deepening have highlighted the change to the philosophical systems undergirding transubstantiation, as well as the historical context of those denying it (including Article XXVIII) leading to a much stronger ecumenical consensus.
Yes, there are some Christians whose eucharistic position could be caricatured as “Jesus is present everywhere except in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion.” But most Christians hold to some theory of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or transignification – a treating with special respect of the consecrated bread and wine and Jesus as present there.
Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have replied when questioned about Christ’s presence in the Sacrament:
“Twas God the word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it;
And what the word did make it;
That I believe, and take it.”
When Jesus shared the bread with his friends at the start of his last meal with the words “this is my body, do this in remembrance of me” and when did similarly with the cup of wine as the meal was ending, he was not commanding them to do a new thing. There has been some scholarly debate whether his last meal was historically a Passover meal or a chaburah meal – for our purposes this makes no difference. Every formal Jewish meal began with blessing, breaking, and sharing bread and concluded with giving thanks over a cup of wine to share. Jesus was not instructing his friends to do a new thing. Jesus was instructing them that whenever they now did this they do it with a new meaning.
We regularly bring to our reading of the scriptures a Greek philosophical concept of a person being a “soul” – and “having” a body. Hebrew and Aramaic language regularly used “body” for “person” and similarly, as evidenced in much Old Testament material, identified “blood” with “life”. Jesus breaking bread and offering a cup of wine was saying: “this is me – my self and my life – I am giving you my self and my life – do this in remembrance of me.”
There is also a call here to give ourselves and our lives away – in remembrance of Jesus. Allowing God to take us, give thanks for and over us, thereby blessing us, breaking and remaking us, and giving us to others.
The collect is a revision of the one attributed to Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi. It occurs first in Anglican Prayer Books in the Scottish revision of 1929 as “An Additional Collect for Maundy Thursday”. It is also an appropriate prayer for after receiving communion.
In the Roman Catholic Church the title of this Solemnity was changed in 1970 to The Body and Blood of Christ (Latin: Sollemnitas Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi). Where it is not celebrated as a holy day of obligation on Thursday Thursday after Trinity Sunday it is usually celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. Even though in many places on Maundy Thursday baroque elements have been added increasing its joyfulness somewhat (bells, white vestments, singing of the Gloria), there is still the shadow of Good Friday cast over it, and hence the parallel celebration of Corpus Christi has been able to remember the institution of the eucharist in a more joyful style.
God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion: Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The strongest Anglican affirmation that I know of, of the bread being Christ’s body, and the wine Christ’s blood, is in the New Zealand Prayer Book page 541, the Prayer after Communion for the Day of Pentecost:
Praise and glory to you creator Spirit of God;
you make our bread Christ’s body
to heal and reconcile
and to make us the body of Christ.
You make our wine Christ’s living sacrificial blood
to redeem the world.
You are truth.
You come like the wind of heaven, unseen, unbidden.
Like the dawn
you illuminate the world around us;
you grant us a new beginning every day.
You warm and comfort us.
You give us courage and fir
and strength beyond our every day resources.
Be with us Holy Spirit in all we say or think,
in all we do this and every day.