On reflections for Corpus Christi, I came across more than once the wonderful words attributed to Queen Elizabeth I (when questioned on her beliefs on the Eucharist in Mary’s reign):

Christ was the word that spake it.
He took the bread and break it;
And what his words did make it
That I believe and take it.

The Western tendency is to treat the words, “This is my body… This is my blood” as words of consecration. [The East has a stronger focus on the epiclesis, the part of the Eucharistic Prayer invoking the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine – the epiclesis missing from the Western consecrating prayer for a lot of its history].

I remind you, that in the original stories of Jesus’ last meal, “This is my body” were not words of consecration. They were words of administration, of distribution. Treating the words, “This is my body” as if they are magical words lies behind our use of “hocus pocus” which are a debasement of the Latin for “This is my body” (“hoc est corpus meum”).

We have valid Eucharistic Prayers (including authorised by the Vatican – the strongest proponent of “This is my body” as words of consecration) which do not include “This is my body… This is my blood”.

I have argued, similarly, that proclaiming, “I baptise you in the Name of the Father, and of…”, as if these words effect baptism, is not what is meant when the New Testament instructs us (Matthew 28:19) to baptise “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. These words are not magical words that the Bible instructs us to say aloud. This is a description of what we are doing when we baptise – we do so on behalf of, in the name of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

May I stress, as I have previously, that I am in no way advocating an abandonment of our tradition of including the Final-Meal story of Jesus in our Eucharistic Prayer. I strongly advocate adherence to our agreements – and in this case strong ecumenical agreement. Nor am I talking about whether or not the bread and wine becomes Christ’s body and blood – quite the opposite. I am simply highlighting that any discussion around this needs to take care that we acknowledge that we come with (Western) lenses when we approach the mystery of the Eucharist.

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