From Revd Jon Sanders
'Lord, give us this bread for ever'
Last Sunday the chalice was restored to our 10am Eucharist which means that we are now able to receive Christ’s body and blood in both kinds at every service of the Eucharist at Great St Mary’s. What good timing: today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, when we give thanks for the Eucharist itself as a means of grace and communion of God. And over the coming nineteen weeks of ‘Ordinary Time’ before All Saints’ Day on 1st November, the worship of the Church strips back its liturgical spectacle to foreground the weekly Eucharist – on the First Sunday after Trinity, the Second Sunday after Trinity, the Third Sunday after Trinity, et cetera.
Corpus Christi is a kind of meta-feast – a feast (and at 12.30pm today, a Eucharist) giving thanks for the feast of the Eucharist. That might seem a bit introverted or overly pious, so it’s worth considering that this feast, like many others, probably started in a local church and grew in popularity because Christians felt that it satisfied a spiritual need. In some places you will read that Corpus Christi was ‘instituted’ by Pope Urban IV in 1264, but really this action was the pronouncement of his approval for what some churches were already doing without his consent. So what spiritual need does Corpus Christi satisfy?
Today we can express our gratitude to God for Christ’s gift of the Eucharist to his Church (in the Church of England, the official title of this feast is 'The Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion'). Sometimes we can overlook the very obvious fact that it is not only through the historical events of the life of Christ that we are saved and united to God, but through the ‘means of grace’ by which those events become real for us and change us. As the Eucharist makes the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus present to us now, it is primary proclamation and source of our own salvation today. In our liturgy for the Sundays after Trinity, the priest will break the host and say, ‘Christ is the bread which has come down from heaven’ and we respond: ‘Lord, give us this bread for ever’. Today we pray this prayer with zeal, that we may not take the Eucharist for granted, but receive it with hearts lifted up in thanks and praise.