Hallo again to all.
We've entered a kind of in-between time of the Church's year, with the long season of Pentecost or Trinitytide ahead of us. Some of us kept today in our home parishes as the Feast of St Barnabas, and others observed it as Sunday School Leaving Sunday. Still others had Choir Recognition and Graduation Sunday, the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the First Sunday after Trinity, or the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The variety, even within a very small sample of Anglican asking, is bewildering.
Still others of us kept today as the Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi, that most delicious of late-medieval, pre-reformation feasts. Corpus Christi grew up in the western European church as a celebration of the presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. The best scholars of medieval religion agree that it was a feast demanded by layfolk, rather than one imposed on popular observance from above. The natural place in the Church calendar for a celebration of the Eucharist is of course Maundy Thursday, but that falls sequentially during the dreadful and mighty days of Holy Week—hardly a time for a joyful parade in thanksgiving for the gift of a most blessed sacrament.
And so in the fulness of time Christians in what are now Germany, Italy, Benelux, France, Switzerland, Austria, the UK, Spain and Portugal began to celebrate Corpus Christi as soon as liturgically possible after the matrix of Easter-related feasts. That means Thursday after Trinity Sunday—or, for some of us, the Sunday in the week following that Thursday.
One can strike many notes on the rich chime of Corpus Christi, but we've always been drawn to the powerful strain of thought in catholic Anglicanism in which the Sacrament of the Altar is a gift from God with profound social implications. Frank Weston of blessed memory said it best:
Put more simply, and from a slightly different angle, the Holy Eucharist in the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of Melanesia ends—in all of its many liturgical languages—with a statement in majuscule and italics:
REMEMBER ALL THE DAY LONG THAT JESUS IS IN YOU
Anglican Christians in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands have this weekly imperative to be mindful after they have received Holy Communion that Jesus is with them.* The more common emphasis in eucharistic devotion is on preparation for worthy reception, rather than on careful living-up to the presence of Jesus within us all the day long after we have communed. We've all felt ourselves more especially uncharitable after worship than before it—because of a sermon that struck us the wrong way, because of a vestry or council or committee meeting, because something annoyed us or troubled us, or because our hearts were somehow and surprisingly less settled after church than they were before church.
Corpus Christi and the trusty Melanesian Prayer Book, though, give us a different model. They tell us that we can be joyful and kind bearers of a holy gift after we receive communion, the very bread from heaven containing within itself all sweetness. It's a good and happy reminder, and we are grateful for it.
See you next week.
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