Corpus Christi 2023 Today we are looking at another feast day, one of the last before ordinary time. Called the feast of Corpus Christi or Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ;  This is primarily a catholic feast, and isn’t usually celebrated by the majority of churches. It was instituted in 13th century venerate the transubstantiation of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Eucharist as believed by Catholic Church.  Now, Anglican theology encompasses a vast breadth, but officially has repudiated the theology of Transubstantiation. So why you may ask did I elect to bring it to your attention?  Why did I choose to include this feast in our parish calendar? We, the clergy are learning that our congregations increasingly cannot be assumed to know all that is contained in scripture.  Or doctrine.  Or the 39 Articles…we may not even have heard of the 39 articles, but if you haven’t heard of scripture then I should be fired! (FYI the 39 Articles define the particularities of the Anglican beliefs that distinguish it from Catholicism and Protestantism and can be found in the BCP) So why celebrate Corpus Christi? Because it gives us the opportunity to talk about the theology of the Eucharist.  To talk about how Christ is a part of the sacrament that we call the communion…the Eucharist…the Great Thanksgiving. After all, it is a vital part of our weekly worship and a practice that I insist on taking place each week.  We, I’m guessing, all know that it is important because Jesus told us so and also because in some way or other Jesus is part of the Eucharist, the bread and the wine. But in what way? How is Jesus in the Eucharist? Have you ever tried to understand what it is that we believe? What you believe? I remember that deep importance of the Eucharist has come to my attention a couple times in my life, making me reflect on it’s function and purpose.    Most recently it was during COVID when churches were closed, social distancing was enforced and isolation became the norm.  As we approached Easter I began to grieve, along with many others that we would not be able to go to church, and one of the major sources of grief was consistently missing out on the Eucharist. Christians from sacramental traditions were struggling with being unable to take the Eucharist and clergy struggled with how to be a Eucharistic community without physical community and without physical Eucharist. It caused us all pause and reflect on what seemed like a crisis in our faith tradition.  Can we be church without communion?  What does the Eucharist mean to us?  What is the eucharist in the first place? We know that when Jesus met with his disciples in the upper room for the Passover so long ago, he transformed the meaning of that feast for all who would follow him.  We read in the first letter to the Corinthians: “the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:23-26) All Christians agree that this was pivotal, but we disagree on how to follow Christ’s instruction and how to understand Christ’s teaching. Today is a good day to take the time to start thinking for yourself what you believe is going on when you take the bread and the wine. At one end of the theological spectrum is the theology of Transubstantiation. The understanding that when Jesus says “This is my body and this is my blood” he meant it in a very real and very substantial way. This official Catholic doctrine tells us that when the Priest blesses the bread and the wine in the context of Holy Communion,  the very substance of the bread and wine changes. This IS my body, This IS my blood.  We see the physical bread, but under the physicality of what our eyes see there is a change of substance.  The nature of the bread and wine change in substance to become Christ’s body and blood. It is a mystery, in which we can participate in the full whole miracle of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection.  As such, in the theology of Transubstantiation Christ is understood as being actually present in the Eucharistic elements, worthy of veneration and worship.  Hence, today’s feast day and the parades and adoration that would normally accompany it. The other end of the spectrum we have the understanding of the Eucharist as a memorial.  That the Eucharist is an action of thanksgiving and remembrance.    “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me”. This is the belief that the Eucharist is less about veneration and more about gratitude. The Eucharist is meant to remind the people of what Christ has done for us and the sacrificial nature of Christ’s love for us.  As a memory, the Eucharist is a re- presentation of the power of the resurrected Christ and is a grace given to us from heaven rather than a physical embodiment. Then somewhere in-between, as we Anglicans often are, is the theology of the real presence.   It is the belief that what happens to the bread and wine during the priest’s blessing is true and real, but that change is not substantial ie: an actual change of nature, but is essential.  That is, the Real Presence is a belief that the essence, that soul, that central nature of what Christ is, is present in the body and blood of Christ, as represented by bread and wine. We believe it is a mystery how the essential nature of Christ is present, yet we understand that it is so.  As a sacramental church, Anglican’s follow St. Augustine’s theology that the Eucharist, along with the other sacraments is ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.’   Which is why we don’t worship the Eucharist, but we do venerate it…highly respect the act and the elements as sacred and holy…but not physically Christ.   So, I hope you’ve managed to stay away through this…it is a lot to absorb.  It’s a lot to think about. But what we all really want to know is how this really matters in our day to day lives. Now, That I can’t answer for you, but I can tell you what it means to me. I believe that the essential nature of Christ is present in the Eucharist.  That means that when I take the bread and the wine, I am partaking of the essential nature of Christ.  In the same way that Holy Spirit can guide and enlighten me, the Eucharist strengthens me and fills me with Christ’s essential nature; which is love, compassion and peace. I struggled without the Eucharist during COVID.  That sustaining nature of the Eucharist was something I noticed strongly because of it’s absence.   I believe we should take the Eucharist each and every week, because we need Christ to be with us in a real and essential way to strengthen and sustain us in this challenging time and in this broken world. The Eucharist, I believe, brings us closer to Christ in a very real way, and brings us closer together as the body of Christ and as a church, which is why it is communal rather than individual. We are blessed by the grace given in this sacrament.  We may not always know exactly how Christ ‘gets in there’, but I know for one that I am always so grateful that he does! As a sacramental and liturgical church we believe that symbols and actions have meaning, depth and purpose.  In the Eucharist, this is exemplified.  Each word and gesture have meaning to them and help to illustrate the meaning of what we do and what we believe when we celebrate the Eucharist. As I celebrate this day, with you, we are joined together with Christ in a unique and miraculous way, and through the essence of Christ brought into a closer communion.  It is truly a spiritual grace and one that I find, as did our spiritual forebearers, to be a keystone of our worship and faith. As we take the Eucharist this day, as we sit and reflect afterwards, I invite you to be intentional about what we say and what we do.  Take the time, this day…as we celebrate Corpus Christi to truly think about what this sacrament means to you.