The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Corpus Christi
30 May 2013
O God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament hath left unto 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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Even though I had been celebrating Mass at an east facing altar for almost two years, I do not think I ever noticed it until I came here to Saint Ignatius and began to say daily Mass in the Lady Chapel. At the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer, after I have made the sign of the cross over the chalice with the Host and while I am chanting the concluding doxology, I elevate the chalice and hold the host above the cup. It is a familiar Eucharistic image, even an iconic one, although today’s leaflet does not illustrate it. This is what I was taught to do when I began celebrating Mass at the Church of the Advent in Boston and it is quite a usual “move” now within the Anglican churches, even ones where the Holy Communion is celebrated at a free standing altar and the priest faces the people.
The thing that I had never noticed before coming to Saint Ignatius was the reflection of the congregation on the convex surface of the polished silver chalice. I am certain it must have been there at the Advent. For some reason, however, it struck me here. Perhaps it was the narrow intimacy of the Lady Chapel and the play of light in our space that made me take notice, although the Advent’s own Ralph Adams Cram designed Lady Chapel is not very different. Once I noticed it at Low Mass, however, I began to notice it at Solemn Mass and now I always see you, the people, the Body of Christ, reflected in the chalice at the dramatic conclusion of the Eucharistic Canon.
When I elevate the chalice and the Host, when I show you the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ here present with us in the elements of bread and wine, I am showing you a reflection of yourself, which is the image I see also. I am showing you who you are, what you shall take into yourselves, and who you shall become. I am showing you your past, your present, and your future. I am showing you the ideal image of what God wants for each and every one of us: to be at one with him, united with him in his death and in his resurrection, to be bound to him and to each other for ever in a bond that can never be broken.
We affirm that whenever we make Eucharist, Jesus becomes specially present with us in the bread and in the wine. He becomes specially present with us in his body and in his blood and we unite ourselves with him, reaffirm the commitment made for us or by us at our baptism, and become one flesh with him. The Eucharist makes us holy, set apart and marked for ever as Christ’s own, and sustains us to act as his Body in the world.
The Eucharist, the feast that makes us one with Our Lord, impels us out of this church building and out into the dark New York night. It sends us out into the world as more than ourselves—as our best self united with the God who made us, who loves us, and who will never let us out of his grasp. In a little while those of us who are already members of Christ’s body through the waters of Baptism will be called forward to receive the very body and blood of Christ. Through our assent, through our action of coming forward to receive and take the elements into our mouths we will renew our commitment to be the Body of Christ. The ministers will then make their procession and I will carry a consecrated Host in the monstrance. You will then have the chance to behold that which you have become. You will have the chance to see yourselves again in Jesus’ body and know how loved you are and how prepared you are to face the challenges that the world outside this building has to offer, how prepared you are to be bearers of Christ’s body, of Christ’s love into the world.
When I elevate the chalice tonight, I will see you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and be reminded that the Eucharist we celebrate is about our re-incorporating Christ into ourselves, about our becoming one with him and about the journey we make together as the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. I pray that we will all find strength and courage, love and hope in the Eucharist we make, consume, and behold this night; and that, both in the fulness of time and in the time we are here together, we are united for ever with one another and with Our Lord. All this I pray in the name of the one, holy, and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and to him be glory and honour, power and dominion, this night and ever more. Amen.
Andrew C. Blume✠
New York City
Corpus Christi, 30 May 2013
© 2013 Andrew Charles Blume