A Eucharistic Aside

As I’ve said before, one of the classes I’m taking here as Sewanee is a preaching class called “Preaching the Feasts.” I signed up for it because, like most preachers, I find preaching the red letter days to be both a) more challenging and b) more exciting that the ordinary (pardon the liturgical pun) Sundays of the year. What I found as the class began, however, was that this wasn’t just a class about preaching the feast days, but preaching the theological and doctrinal questions that the feast days bring up. I guess one should read the course description before signing up rather than merely scanning the course title and professors names because as you might imagine, this class is not easy for me.

The description for this blog is, “A blog about the Bible.” My task, four days a week, is to relate some portion of the lectionary to my life and the lives of those around me. My sermons are, to use the well worn and baggage laden phrase, biblically based and applicable to real life. So, when I’m invited to preach a feast day without reference to the Biblical text, my brain hurts. I preached an ok, albeit vignette heavy, sermon on Holy Saturday for class this week. I was told by the professor that it was “more pastoral than theological,” but all in all it went all right. As I think about the challenge of this course, however, I’m realizing that in order to overcome my love of the Biblical text, I’m going to have to deal with a feast that is specifically doctrinal.

Which leads me to my Eucharistic Aside. Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, a feast that does not actually appear on the calendar of The Episcopal Church, but which is remembered in many Anglo-Catholic parishes. Perhaps in my low church context, it could be replaced by World Communion Sunday, which is also not an authorized feast, though propers are provided in the Prayer Book for “Of the Holy Eucharist” in “Various Occasions” and without a fixed date. What each of these “feasts” do, however, is invite me to look beyond Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper or Paul’s recollection of it in 1 Corinthians 11 and instead think about my theology of the Eucharist. What does it mean that I subscribe to a theology of transignification? How is Christ really present in the Eucharist? What does it do for us? Why is it central to our life of faith and worship?  What does it mean to venerate something, as in the Collect for the Holy Eucharist:

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.

Tonight, I’ll be attending my first Corpus Christi service: A Service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Setting aside the 39 Articles and the rubrics of the Prayer Book for an evening, I’m actually excited to ponder the impact that the Eucharist has me personally, on us corporately, and on how we look at the world around us. As preparation, I’m re-watching the Eucharist edition of the New Tracts for our Times.

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