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No chalice – no good?

I am very grateful to Revd Ally Barrett, Vicar of Buckden with the Offords in St Neots’ Deanery for writing a piece about Swine ‘Flu and the real presence in the Eucharist. Now that many churches are offering the wafer/bread and not the chalice  as a precautionry measure,  this piece may assit some of you to think through what it means to say that Christ is present in the Eucharist.

Many thanks to Ally for letting her thoughts go public – you can also read them on her blog: http://allybarrett.blogspot.com/

I will post them now and also on a page at the top of the site.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Swine Flu and the Real Presence in the Eucharist

So, sharing the common cup at communion is no longer an option, and the congregations in my churches will be receiving only the bread for the foreseeable future – and that might be for a while. I wanted to share why, for me, receiving communion ‘in one kind’ is still just as valid as receiving both the bread and wine.
Now, I am someone who very much believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But my understanding is that the reality of Christ’s presence is spiritual, not physical (the physical bread and the wine in the sacrament are not there because God needs them in order to be present with us, but because we find that they help us ‘notice’ that he is there). It is not that the spiritual reality of Christ’s presence is somehow piggy-backing on the physical reality of bread and wine, but rather that the physical reality of bread and wine help to make visible and tangible the prior spiritual reality of the presence of Christ.
Think about the resurrection appearances of Jesus, when he walked through solid walls and locked doors. Was that because Jesus was somehow insubstantial, like a ghost, compared to the solid physical wall? Or was it rather that Jesus was so real, so substantial, that the solid wall was insubstantial in comparison? The spiritual world is not less real than the physical world, it is more real.
When we receive communion, we are eating bread, but through faith we are receiving so much more than that – the very real (more real than anythning else) spiritual presence of Christ in our lives. If there were no bread in the world, and the wine had all run dry, Christ would still be just as real, and just as present with us.
Not sure if that will help anyone with the current situation of not being able to receive communion wine, but it did help me.
No doubt someone will tell me if it’s totally heretical!

Revd Ally Barrett

bread and wine

July 31, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Thanks to Rev Paul Andrews for these comments:

    I completely agree with Ally’s summary of the real presence. But if there were no bread and no wine, there would by definition be no communion and no sacramental presence in the sense that the physical sign (=sacrament) would be absent. Of course there’s a great deal more that could be said about the presence not least about the presence of Christ balanced ‘…in word and sacrament’, but I think that we do have an opportunity to make something more of the presence of Christ in the eucharistic assembly as the Body of Christ – we are the body of Christ and we receive the body of Christ (you are what you eat). We are gathered as individuals and we are resourced and constituted as the body of Christ through the eucharistic liturgy. As the bread is taken, blessed, broken and distributed, so we are gathered (taken), confessing our shortcomings (broken), fed in word and sacrament (blessed) and distributed (dismissal) For me, it is the presence of Christ in one another and in the body as a whole that is explicitly and primarily acknowledged at the peace. Perhaps we can use the opportunity of not making physical contact to emphasise/teach that this too is a sacramental and spiritual action, rather than just a jolly greeting. That’s why I love the Orthodox version of the greeting (and have sometimes used it) taken from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom: ‘Christ is in our midst’ to which the response is ‘He is and always will be’. Much more serious, and more truly joyful than the hyperactive handshaking that often goes on!

    And yes, the whole sacrament is present in both species. I have occasionally given communion to communicants who are unable to ingest a wafer (usually in extremis) by dipping my finger in the wine and moistening their lips. That’s probably not in the bishops’ guidlelines though!!

    Comment by paxtonvic | July 31, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks for these further thoughts from one of our retired Chapter Priests:

      I hesitate to join in this high power discussion but just a few headlines, off the top thoughts

      1. I agree about the real presence

      2. could it be confusing to say Real Presence as the phrase has a history!

      3.Bread is certainly not the only way God communicates… but it is the way that Jesus choose above others?

      4. If not bread it would be something else (if we are sacramentalists? Is that a word?) as our faith works through the material

      5. Masao Takenaka wrote a small book ‘God is Rice’ ‘It is quite appropriate for us to say ‘God is Bread’ rather than God is Bread. Kim Chi Ha the well known Korean Christian poet wrote

      Heaven is rice

      As we cannot go to heaven alone

      We should share rice with one another

      As all share the light of the heavenly stars

      We should share and eat rice together

      Heaven is rice

      When we eat and swallow rice

      Heaven dwells in our body

      Rice is heaven

      Yes, rice is the matter we should eat together

      Apparently the Chinese character for peace consists of grain and mouths!! Peace is therefore an even distribution of grain, or justice!!

      6. Bread in the Eucharist – spiritual yes but also social and political

      7. I always used bread not wafers and each Sunday it was brought by different families linking home and church

      8. I am sure one of you will tell me when receiving bread only started in the roman church… we should as soon as possible get back to bread and wine for all!!

      It is our long tradition and has a good basis in the bible

      Random thoughts

      Comment by paxtonvic | August 2, 2009 | Reply


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