Crumbs from the Table of the Word

The Hebrew language has no word for ‘body’ so ‘flesh’ is the nearest approximation to the words Jesus would use.  It is also the nearest approximation of how closely Jesus wants to share his life with us.  He promised “I will be with you all days even to the end of the earth”, and the sign of that promise is the gift placed in our hands which the priest names as “The Body of Christ” each time we receive it.  .

This body is not Jesus’ historic physical body so familiar to his disciples and to us through paintings and statues.  It is his spiritual body which is made up of many members carrying out the work he left us to do in the world today.  In an amazing sense, when we eat this bread and drink from this cup our human nature becomes the flesh through which God’s love touches and transforms the world and continues to give life whenever we ‘Do this in memory of me’. 

Each time we approach the table at Holy Communion, the priest says: “The Body of Christ” and we reply “Amen”.  St. Augustine reminds us that ‘the body of Christ ‘is referring to us as the community of Christ’s disciples partaking in the one cup and loaf.  When we say ‘Amen’ we are committing ourselves to love our brothers and sisters and to live as a member of his body which has Christ as its head:  ‘What you hear spoken’, writes Augustine, is “the Body of Christ’ and you answer ‘Amen’.  So be a member of the body of Christ [by your actions] in order to make that ‘Amen’ true”.  (Sermon 3, 7)   

When we share the one bread and when we drink from the one cup we give expression to the communion which is brought about because of the bond we each have uniquely with Christ.  The bond of love I have with Christ and the bond of love my neighbour has with him becomes the basis for our communion with one another. The gift that Jesus gives us is not just some token, but his very self, his whole person, which was lifted up for us on the cross so that the life from the Father passes through the Son to all who become one with him in the Spirit.