From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 6),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp 164-179
THE HOLY COMMUNION
A BRIEF EXPOSITION CIRCULATED AS A POPULAR TRACT
THE Holy Communion is a wonderful subject. It is a wonder in itself. Let the writer, desirous of helping his fellows respectively, address himself to three classes:
I. TO MY FELLOW-MAN.
2. TO MY FELLOW-CHRISTIAN.
3. TO MY FELLOW-CHURCHMAN.
I. MY FELLOW-MAN.
The man I am thinking of is a practical, well-instructed business man. He is a real person, and a friend of mine, and I like him very much. I meet him often at the club; he is an excellent companion, and has all the good qualities of a gentleman. He does not go to Church, unless at Easter, with his wife. He has not felt the need of any religion, and sees no reason why he should join any Church. There seems to be no common ground on which we may approach each other. If a man does not believe there is a God, immanent in nature, yet transcending it, how can we talk to him about revelation?
But we must try. We begin with this proposition. Something must have been eternal. If at one time there was nothing in existence, out of nothing, nothing could come. The fact that something is, proves that something has been eternal.
Even if it is matter and force, there is a directing energy behind nature which, by its orderly progress, shows itself to be an intelligent one. This Energy is known by us as God. If this were not so, the Universe would be a nightmare; and if the Intelligent Energy did not reveal Himself to human intelligence, the Universe would be an immoral one.
My friend admitted this was probably true, but said, "Where are you to find this revelation?" It is to be found, I said, in the material world, in its order and beauty, in the conscience of man with his sense of right and wrong, in gifted persons like poets and philosophers, in all times and nations, in a progressive revelation through prophets and teachers, which revelation has culminated in Christ.
"Your theory," my friend said, "involves the belief that Almighty God came to this little planet. Now does not modern science, which reveals to us the enormous size of the Universe, prove a serious obstacle to this belief? Emerson pointed this out, and thought it was a fatal objection to the Christian theory. Why should God have come to so insignificant a planet as this earth?" The answer is,the Universe, magnificent as it is, is one whole thing. It is governed by universal laws, and is a unit in itself. The immensity of its size, and the billions of years in its formation' were the preparations for Gods coming, and gave dignity to the event. Entering into the Universe, and for the benefit of the whole of it, He must enter it at some one point, and the point He selected was our planet, and the nature of man. He thus united the creation He had made, by a new union with Himself. The littleness of the bridal chamber is no argument against the union.
Again, Christs life proves at least His sincerity and trustworthiness; and He claimed, as no other teacher ever claimed, to have had a pre-existence, and to have come from Heaven to be our Guide. He said, "Before Abraham was, I am." "What, and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?" "I am the Living Bread, which came down from Heaven." "If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever." "And the bread which I shall give is my Flesh, which I will give for the Life of the World." I will now confine myself to what He said about the Holy Communion.
It is in the Synoptics as well as in St. Johns Gospel that He declares this truth; and instituting the Sacrament said of the Bread that He broke and blest, "This is my Body," and of the Cup, "This is the new Covenant in my Blood." He did not say this represents my Body, but this is my Body.
Grant it is a mystery; but if we trust Him at all, we must believe what He said to be true. There was also a great reason for it. Now if you believe, my fellow-man, in the evolutionary progress of creation, as I do, you will not be unwilling to believe that the progress has not stopped with man, as he is. The Church's teaching is that man is to be developed and elevated into a higher sphere, by becoming sinless and perfect through a new union with God. This secures to us a state of eternally progressive bliss. This is called the "Gift of Eternal Life," and is something different from Immortality. This gift Christ offers us through union with His own nature; and an especial instrument of that union is the Holy Communion. We are thereby incorporated into Christ now, and eventually may attain to a new union with God in bliss and glory.
Christ thus makes a great offer to you, and the question is, will you take it? Or will you be so foolish as some and say, "God made me, He must take care of me. God is merciful, I will trust myself to the mercy of God. " Now God has extended His mercy to us through the Holy Eucharist, and said, "Do this, in remembrance of Me." We put to you, dear friend, the common-sense question, "Can you reject the mercy of God so lovingly offered, and at the hour of death claim it?" And if, rejecting Christs offer, you lose the gift of Eternal Life, and thus are lost, as you surely will be, ask yourself seriously the question, "whose fault will it be?"
II. MY DEAR FELLOW-CHRISTIAN.
You have been baptized, I believe, in the Name of the Holy Trinity. All baptized persons we churchmen regard as fellow-Christians. You have, we believe, a Holy Communion service once in three months, which you keep as a Memorial of the death of Christ. It is no doubt a very precious and helpful service to you. The broken bread and the outpoured wine bring before the mind the broken Body and the outpoured Blood of Christ. It is a most blessed and spiritual Memorial. It is a living witness of the death of Christ and our acceptance through His merits, and His Precious Blood. All that you say of its benefits to yourself, we can well understand. But did not Christ leave something more than a Memorial of His Death and Passion? Did He not leave the gift of His very self?
Have you ever thought in this connection of what the testimony of the whole church is and has been? In considering any religious question, is it not wise to take into account the experience of our fellow-Christians? Is it not true that our religion does not consist in believing certain doctrines, but in union with a divine Person? Has it not also the same foundation as scientific truth, viz.: hypothesis or theory demonstrated by experiment? Now the Divine Master said, "Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you." "Whoso eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood hath Eternal Life, and I will raise him up at the last day, for my Flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed." "He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood dwelleth in me, and I in him." What then we ask is the testimony of Christian experience?
Now the larger portion of the Christian Church has taken the words of Christ literally and declared that their experience has found this interpretation to be true. The ancient Church, as testified by the witness of the Fathers, shows that it believed in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist by virtue of the consecration of the elements. To-day, the Eastern Churches with one hundred million communicants and the Roman Church with twice as many more, and the Anglican Church with its many thousands, believe in the Real Objective Presence of Christ. They testify to it by their devotional writings, and consecrated lives. They declare that they know they have received Jesus Christs Body and Blood, and have been partakers of His Soul and Divinity. Wherever in the Church there is an ordained priesthood, this is the universal testimony. Is it not a wonderful testimony? Is it not worth considering? Put it to yourself in this wise. Do not you or your ministers, in arguing with inquirers, tell them of the experience of all Christians? Do they not tell the doubting inquirer how seekers have trusted Christs words and believed in Him, and then found peace? Why should not you therefore in like manner accept the experience of those who receive the Sacrament in a Church where the Priesthood has been preserved, and declare they receive something more than you do, in your sectarian denomination? Surely you as a Christian need all that Christ has left you for your souls good, and if in our Church there is something more than you have yet received, why should you not come to your dear Lord and get it?
Perhaps you may have some such objection as this. "How can Jesus Christ, Who is in Heaven, at the same time be on so many thousands of Altars as a belief in the Real Presence implies?" The answer is, He does not have to move or come down. He remains where He is at the right Hand of Power. But the union of His Manhood with His Divine Nature enables His Manhood to be manifested within His Spiritual Body, which is the Church, wherever and whenever He will. He gave us a proof of this in His appearance to Saul on the roadway to Damascus. He had ascended to Heaven, where Stephen in a vision saw Him, but without moving locally, He nevertheless appeared to Saul and communed with him. We must grant that it is a mystery, but He has given us a proof of how it might be, and we accept it on His sure word.
You very rightly as a Christian ask, "Where did our Lord ever say what you Episcopalians or Catholics hold?" In S. Johns Gospel, He gave, in the sixth chapter, a full instruction on the subject of the Holy Eucharist. Like some other discourses of of His, it was divided into two parts, and if you would rightly understand this discourse, you must notice the two divisions in it. The first part begins with verse 5, and ends with verse 47. The second part begins at verse 48, and continues to the end. Each of these sections commences with the same heading or proposition, viz.: "I am the Bread of Life." In each part, there is a special donor, a special gift, and a special duty and blessing resulting from it. In the first part of the discourse, the donor is the Eternal Father, the gift the Father bestoweth is Jesus Christ, and the duty of receiving the gift is believing in Jesus Christ. Now in the second part of this discourse all this is changed. Christ begins as before by saying I am the Bread of Life. But now He is the Giver and Donor. He says, "The Bread that I will give is my Flesh." The gift He states to be His Flesh, "For my Flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed." The duty is not that of believing merely, but eating. "He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood dwelleth in Me and I in him." The benefit we receive therefrom is the gift of Life as He said, "He that eateth Me shall live by Me," and "As your Fathers did eat manna and are dead, he that eateth of this Bread shall live forever."
While in the first part of the discourse, the duty inculcated is that of believing in Him, the duty inculcated in the second part is to partake of His Body and Blood. This is His real meaning, as seen by the objections made to it at the time. Not realizing His Divinity, some of His hearers said, "How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?" They did not understand that our Lord was not, like themselves, a common man. Our Lord therefore pointed out to them the fact of His Supernatural Being. He had come down from Heaven, and, "What, if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?" By this explanation Christ sought to help them. By the union with His Divine nature, our Lord's humanity had a quickening or life-giving power, so S. Paul tells us. Our Lord, as the second Adam, was made a quickening or life-giving Spirit. This our Lord declared, saying, "The words that I speak unto you," i.e. the things I have been telling you about, viz. my Body and my Blood, "they are spirit, and they are life." In this way, our Lord explains in part the great Mystery. By virtue of its union with His divine nature His human nature had a life-giving power.
Clearly, if He meant His hearers were simply to believe on Him, and receive the Communion merely as a Memorial, He would not have let them misunderstand Him, and go away.
This teaching of our Lord concerning the Holy Communion is emphatically brought out at the Institution of the Sacrament. He then,after the symbolical action of laying aside His garment, the figure of His putting off His Glory, and girding Himself with a towel, the type of His taking upon Himself our human nature, and wiping the disciples' feet with the towel wherewith He was girded, a token of our cleansing,took bread into His holy Hands, and breaking it, He said, "This is my Body, and this Cup is the new Covenant in my Blood." He then, by His Almighty power, the same that had changed the water into wine, identified that which He held in His hand with Himself, and it came to be by His word what He declared it to be, His Body and His Blood. As loving disciples of Him, and as little children, should we not accept it?
It is the glory of the Anglican Church that she has preserved intact this great and solemn truth, and can bestow this precious making gift on her people. Why, we ask again, should you not have it?
There is, in conclusion, a loving question we would ask. You believe in Christ, and hope to enter Heaven, have you ever asked yourself the question, what, if you attain that blest condition, will keep you there? Only by holiness can one see the Lord, and only by sinlessness can one remain in the Heavenly state. Now, we know the Angels by sinning fell from Heaven. What is to keep you from doing so? Any one sin would cast a person out from Heaven as it did the Angels. What security have you that you will not fall into some spiritual one, and so lose your estate? It is true you cannot there be tempted by the world, the flesh, or Satan, but you have got your own self, just as the Angels had, and any sin involving self would immediately forfeit your estate, and you would be cast out as the bad Angels were. Think over the matter. What is it that will keep you in a sinless condition, and so secure for you Heaven as a permanent estate? The Church has her answer. It is through a special union with God, begun here by a sacramental union with the humanity of Christ. Only in and through that humanity can we attain Heaven, and only by union with His humanity can we be maintained in it. Your theology does not answer this problem. It does not give a satisfactory reason why the Son of God should continue forever to wear our nature. Had He taken.it simply for the work of our redemption, then when that work was accomplished, the Divine economy would have laid it aside. But He wears it now and will wear it eternally. He does this in order that we being united with it, may be sustained there in a sinless condition and remain in Heaven forever. If, therefore, you desire a security of that eternal happiness, begin now by receiving the Body and Blood of your Lord which will prepare you for the final union with Him in glory.
III. TO MY FELLOW-CHURCHMAN.
Do you realize that the Holy Communion is a sacrifice? I think I can hear you say that you thought all sacrifices were done away. No, this is a mistake. The offering of sacrifice is a necessary part of all religious worship. There cannot be a complete religious worship without it. This is so, because by sacrifice our relation to God is acknowledged, and by means of His reciprocal action a Gift and Blessing are vouchsafed to us.
It is the law of reciprocity, or exchange, that runs throughout nature. Nothing lives to itself alone. Everything lives by a process of giving and receiving. By sacrifice, we give something ordained by God, to Him, and He gives something in return to us. Thus sacrifice, as expressive of mans relation to God, and of Gods gift to us, s to be found in every dispensation.
In Eden, man offered to God, by abstaining from it, the tree of Knowledge, a thing symbolical of His own innocence, and God gave to him the privilege of partaking of the Tree of Life.
In mans fallen condition and under the law, man offered animal sacrifices, an acknowledgment by man that he was under the law of death. God gave to him in return, temporal blessings and the promise of a future Redeemer. In the Gospel dispensation, we, being in a state of grace, offer the Memorial Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, and God gives us back the privilege of feeding on the Body and Blood of Christ for the strengthening and refreshing of our souls. Thus there is a sacrifice in every dispensation.
But you say again: I thought Christ had made one Sacrifice, and there could be no other, for it is written in Hebrews x. 12, "This Man, after He had made one Sacrifice for sin for ever, sat down on the right Hand of God." Moreover, it is written, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins," how then can there be this Memorial Sacrifice? To understand this, you must make a distinction between the Sacrifice Christ offered on Calvary for human nature, or all mankind, and the memorial pleading of it. You can understand this distinction by considering the day of the Jewish Atonement. In the Old Dispensation, there was a daily sacrificial offering of a lamb. But on the day of Atonement all the daily sacrificial offerings ceased. Ere they could be resumed, the High Priest had to make a special Atonement for the nation, as a nation. When the nation had been reconciled to God, then the daily sacrifices could be resumed.
This explains the offering on Calvary. He made there the one, All-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It could not be repeated or added to. But He gave to His Church the power of offering a daily Memorial of that Sacrifice, when He said to His Apostles, "Do this," or "offer this, as a Memorial of Me." Thus the sacrifice on Calvary, like the Jewish day of the Atonement, did not take away Sacrifice from the Church's service, but established the use of it.
Two things follow from this. If you want to partake of the benefit of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice, you must not only believe in it, but plead it in the way He has ordained, and by becoming a faithful communicant, be identified with it.
Again: if you would rightly fulfil your religious duty on the Lord's Day, you will not only be present at Morning Prayer, but at the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. There, bring your petitions, and lay them on Christ's Altar, yea, on His very Self, and He in His great love will plead His Merits on your behalf, and make your petitions His own.
Do you realize the difference between your communion and that of sectarians? You know that by the Priests consecration the elements become the Body and Blood of Christ. Sectarians, having no Priesthood, are lacking in this power. We do not know how the change takes place, but accept it as a mystery, on Christs word, believing it makes a great difference to our Christian life and character.
We are not merely looking, as sectarians do, to Christ as an Example, and so are trying to pattern our lives after His, but He in the Eucharist communicates not only His Body and Blood to us, but His Soul with all its virtues, making us also a partaker, as the Apostle Paul tells us, of His Divine Nature.
You will thus find it helpful to say at your communion: "Meekness of Christ, make me meek"; "Patience of Christ, make me patient"; "Zeal of Christ, make me zealous"; "Fortitude of Christ, make me persevering"; "Prayerfulness of Christ, make me prayerful"; "Love of Christ, fill me with Thy love." Thus Christs nature and virtues take possession of you and you become Christlike. You are saved by Him, and you are remade in Him; Christ in you is the hope of glory. Seek this union more and more. The more united we are to Him by self-sacrifices, and by works of love and devotion, the more fully shall we enter hereafter into His life of joy and bliss.
And now a word about the worship of the Church. Perhaps you do not like much ceremonial or ritual, as you call it. You do not like to see a Cross on the Altar, or lights, or flowers, or the Priest in Eucharistic vestments. Perhaps you think these things are Romish, or tend that way, and so are opposed to them. If they were introduced as an imitation of Rome, I should be in agreement with you. I believe they came down to us from very early times, and are part of our Catholic heritage. They bear witness to the continuity of our Church, and are a protest against Roman claims. They teach more effectively than words the saving doctrine of Christ's presence with His people. They teach people how to worship God, the beautiful and good God in "the beauty of Holiness."
It is but natural that churchmen should ask, "Where do you find this ceremonial worship in the Gospel?" "Look," they say, "at Christ. He wore no Eucharistic vestments, He established no glorious worship; He went about in ordinary dress, preaching on the hill-side, or from the pulpit of the rocking boat." We might say in reply, that God had given explicit directions in the Old Dispensation how He would be worshiped; He had ordained a temple service where the Priests wore their glorious vestments; where the service was symbolical, ceremonial, and choral. And in this service so majestically beautiful, Christ took part. He thus sanctioned it by His own Example. And if we had nothing further, this would be a sufficient authorization for the worship of the Christian Church. But we have something more. God, Who changeth not, acted in the New Dispensation as He did in the Old. In the old times after He had led His chosen people out from Egypt, He took Moses up into the Mount, showed him the Heavenly worship. He bade him establish the service of the Tabernacle after the pattern of the things he had then seen. Hence arose that majestical, ceremonial, and symbolical worship, glorious with incense and lights and vestments and song. In like manner, when His followers had been delivered from Judaism, and the Christian Church had been founded at Pentecost, Christ took S. John up into Heaven and showed him the heavenly worship. He saw there the glorious throne and the Seven Lamps burning before it; saw the Angel with his censer; beheld our Lord in His glorious vestments; heard the Angelic voices and the choirs of the Saints, as they chanted their Trisagion, and "All Holy" hymn. In Heaven, we must believe, they worship God in spirit and in truth, and this vision of the heavenly worship became the directory for the Christian Church. We must now lay old party feelings aside. For now there is a great call of the Spirit to union among all Christians, and the first and most important work is greater union among ourselves. We must trust one another more, and come to a better understanding; and be more tolerant of each other's differences; and work and legislate together and grow in Divine Love towards each other. If all fellow-Churchmen would thus come together, the Church would become a greater power for good in our nation. Our own sanctity would be greatly developed, and the cause of Christian unity would be greatly advanced. May the love of Jesus conquer all self-love in us and all party spirit and unite us in His love.
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