Project Canterbury

The Eucharistic Life

The Substance of Addresses Given by Two Members of the Oxford Mission Brotherhood of the Epiphany, at the Students Conference of the Syrian Christian Church, Held at Kottayam, May 1st--5th, 1916

London, New York, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras: Longmans, Green and Co., 1918.

Chapter I. The System of Worship Divinely Revealed

IT may be that some things will be said to you in these addresses which will seem difficult to follow, for we have chosen a lofty and sublime theme. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews warns his readers when he is about to speak of Christ as High Priest that he has many things to say and that they are "hard of interpretation" (Hebrews v. 11). He goes on to say that "solid food is for full-grown men" (v. 14). It is as full-grown men in Christ that we propose to treat you and strive to put before you some of these things which are "hard of interpretation."

The general subject is the Eucharistic Life; it will be considered under the two divisions of the Presentation of Christ to God and the Presentation of Christ to man--the Sacrifice and the Sacrament. The Eucharist is both Sacrifice and Sacrament: in a Sacrifice, I give God something; in a Sacrament, God gives me something. In the morning the subject will be the Sacrifice, and in the evening the Sacrament.

One word of preface may be said: we shall be studying together truths of "Theology." Let us never forget that the purpose of the study of theology is to deepen our religion. Theology is knowing [21/22] about God, but Religion is knowing God. It is an infinitely greater thing to know God than to know about God, for to know God means that we have intercourse and fellowship with Him. It has been said that "spiritual knowledge is not external but sympathetic." What that means is, that we cannot know God with the intellect, we can only know Him with the heart and conscience--with the spirit. We can know about God with the intellect, but we can only know Him when we are growing like Him in holiness. St. Augustine says that when love accompanies faith, then the faith is the faith of a Christian, but when faith is unaccompanied by love, then the faith is the faith of a devil. In one sense, a devil might be a good theologian, but in no sense can a devil know God. Only one who loves can know God. In the Imitation of Christ we read: "What advantage is it to dispute profoundly about the doctrine of the Trinity, if by your lack of humility you are all the while displeasing the Trinity?" And in another place: "It is better to feel contrition than to be able to define it."

We have not come together in this Conference primarily to study theology--we have come to learn religion better; that is, to know and love God better. The more we know about God, the more we are to strive to love and know God. Greek theologians say that all theology is in two divisions--Divinity and Dispensation. We study Divinity that we may learn what God is, and we study His Dispensation that we may learn what God does. Continually and diligently using the Holy Scripture to learn what God is and what God does, may we also learn to know Him, love Him and serve Him, so that finally we may be with Him forever.

There are two conceivable centres of Christian consciousness. A Christian may habitually think of himself as living in physical surroundings. Earth is undoubtedly and obviously his abode. From the [22/23] standpoint of earth he spiritually looks upward to wards heaven, just as physically he looks upward towards the blue sky. He thinks of heaven as a far away distant country above the sky to which he hopes to attain as the reward of his life of faith. He can send messages to heaven by a kind of spiritual telephone called prayer, and in response to these messages the Father who dwells in heaven sends down grace to help. Once long ago the Son of God visited the earth and for a short time lived on it, showed us what a human life could be, died, rose again, and then went back into His distant home of heaven from which He had come. He did not, however, leave us altogether without a Helper except at a distance, for He gave the Holy Spirit to dwell within our hearts to inspire us with good thoughts and to restrain us from evil. Some day the Saviour will come back to the earth, and then there will be no need of the Holy Spirit, for Christ Himself will be present, and He will take us up with Him into heaven. We have memorials of His former presence upon earth and of His death, chief amongst which is the Lord's Supper, when we can recall Him to our minds and think over all He has done for us, especially by His death.

Such is roughly a description of the general belief of a very large number of Christian people, and many of them, no doubt, attain to great holiness of life and are well pleasing to God.

But a Christian ought to have a different centre of consciousness. He ought to think of himself first and foremost as a spirit manifesting himself under earthly conditions through a physical body, but really all the time, like St. Paul, having his "conversation in heaven" (Philippians iii. 20). He means by that not merely that he is properly a citizen of heaven, though temporarily absent in a foreign land; not merely that the constitution under which he lives is a heavenly constitution, but that he really has his [23/24] "conversation" in heaven: that he already lives and moves and speaks and acts under heavenly surroundings. He is already dwelling in a City which, though hidden from his physical sight, is his abode none the less, and within which he has friends and companions and guides whom he cannot see, but with whom he may talk. He does not think of his prayers as a kind of telephoning to his Saviour, because his Saviour is here. He does not think of the Holy Spirit as a substitute for an absent Christ, but as the agent of His real presence. He does not think of the Holy Eucharist as the means by which he is to stimulate a deficient memory, but as a means by which he is embraced by and embraces his Living Lord, and is nourished by the reality of His Divine-Human life. Or to put it all in the words of Holy Scripture, he believes that Christians "are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling" (Hebrews xii. 22-24). He notices that it is not that they shall come, but that they are come. St. Paul's physical body was sometimes in very un pleasant places in a prison cell, or a ship on a stormy sea and yet he believed himself to be in the City of God; he was sure that he had been quickened together with Christ and made "to sit with Him in the heavenly places" (Ephesians ii. 6).

There are, then, these two centres--the kingdom of earth and the Kingdom of Heaven. We are both temporal and eternal beings. We can either look out of the temporal into the eternal, or we can look out of the eternal into the temporal. We can have our conversation on earth and make aspirations towards heaven, or we can have our conversation in heaven [24/25] and by the Holy Spirit lift up earthly things and make them heavenly.

Corresponding with these two conceptions of Christian life there are, as we should expect, two theories of Christian worship. Man may seek to please God to the best of his own natural powers, believing that his natural powers are reinforced by grace. He may draw up the most suitable services, he may pray his most earnest prayers, he may bring his best music, his devoutest praises: he may even regard humble attention to sermons as an act of worship. Worship is devised and arranged on earth and then it is offered from earth to heaven. That is one theory.

The other theory of worship is this: that having been lifted unto heavenly places, that having come to the City of God, he finds that worship is already going on, and that it is not so much his business to devise a method of worship as to share in that heavenly worship which is being offered. In other words, he receives a divinely revealed system of worship. Of himself he knows not how to worship God acceptably, and so God teaches him. His worship is not to be earthly worship, that is, worship conceived on earth, but heavenly worship, that is, worship conceived in heaven and revealed to man.

There is no question as to which of these two systems is the blessed heritage of the Catholic Church. Holy Scripture makes it clear that the Christian is already an inheritor and not an heir; that already, blind and deaf though he may seem, he dwells in the City of the living God; that he has come to Jesus and the Blood of sprinkling; that he shares a worship and does not invent it; that he has for his companions and fellow-worshippers angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.

This great Scriptural principle that acceptable worship is not humanly devised but divinely appointed [25/26] and revealed does not appear, of course, for the first time in the New Testament. It is deeply imbedded in the Old. Moses, the servant of God, faithful to Him who appointed him, has two things to do. He has to teach the people how to live and how to worship. They lived among peoples who followed their own imagination, who lived as they liked and worshipped as they pleased. The result is described in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Moses has to provide for Israel a code of morals and a system of worship. Does he, like Confucius or Solon, create a constitution and draw up its laws? Does he consult with the best and wisest of the elders and with their help promulgate a code? Exodus gives us the answer: "Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him, saying--thus shalt thou say" (Exodus xix. 3). "And God spake all these words saying" (Exodus xx. i). God gave him the code of morals: it was not evolved from within Israel, it was divinely revealed from above Israel. So also with the system of worship. Does Moses arrange for the offering of suitable prayers and praises and thanksgivings? Does he select the most spiritually minded of the people and ask them to suggest becoming forms of congregational devotion? Does he erect with the aid of his skilled workmen a temple of his own design? Holy Scripture tells us something very different: "Moses is warned of God when he is about to make the tabernacle, for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was shewed thee in the mount" (Hebrews viii. 5). Again and again he is instructed by God that the system of worship Israel is to offer is not theirs but His. "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern . . . even so shall ye make it" (Exodus xxv. 8-9). "Look that thou make them after their pattern which was shewed thee" [26/27] (Exodus xxv. 40). "Thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount" (Exodus xxvi. 30). "As it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it" (Exodus xxvii. 8). "According to the pattern which the Lord had shewed Moses" (Numbers viii. 4).

There is nothing in the Levitical worship without its meaning; measurements, colours, vessels, divisions, materials, all represented heavenly ideas revealed: all were the reflexion, copy, or shadow of heavenly realities.

All was of God's appointment that had to do with the worship they offered. Such was a first principle of their faith. It is appealed to by St. Stephen in his address to the Sanhedrim as a principle accepted without question by all (Acts vii. 44).

It is a principle of the utmost importance. It is the great evangelical principle that runs throughout the whole Bible. Alike in morals and in worship man has not attained by his own efforts, but by correspondence with God's grace.

Then, for the sake of clearness, we must note this: the Bible teaches us that there are three Dispensations in the history of God's dealings with mankind. The first may be called the Dispensation of Shadow or Outline; this was the Mosaic Dispensation. It gave to Israel outline copies of heavenly transactions; it provided worshippers with the shadow of heavenly verities; it revealed signs of heavenly truths.

The second Dispensation is the Dispensation of the Very Image; it is the Dispensation of the Incarnation and the Holy Spirit; it is the Dispensation which gives not a copy of the heavenly thing, but the heavenly thing itself, not the shadow of the verity, but its substance, not the sign but the Sacrament, or rather both the sign and the thing signified; it is the Dispensation of things realized, and not of [27/28] things promised. But all is veiled and not yet openly manifested.

The third Dispensation is yet to come. It is to be heaven unveiled; it is to be the beatific vision when we see "face to face." In the third Dispensation Sacraments will have no more place, for "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them" (Revelation vii. 17).

All this is the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The time before the Incarnation is the period of shadows and outline and copy; the time after the Incarnation is the time of Sacrament, of Reality veiled. The Consummation, when Jesus Christ shall be openly manifested, is the time when His servants shall do Him service and they shall see His Face. In Hebrews x. I we are told that the Law--that is, the Levitical Dispensation--has "a shadow of the good things to come." The present Dispensation has "the very image of the things." The future Dispensation has the good things, the immediate experience of the actual divine Reality.

We may illustrate the three stages of God's revelation--shadow, very image, and actuality--by saying that the shew bread is the shadow of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist is the very image, and the actuality is open fellowship with Christ in heaven, "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb" (Revelation xix. 9).

We go on now to consider the divinely revealed system of worship given to Moses in which was to be found the copy or shadow of heavenly things. It is not necessary here to examine the details of the ritual and the structure of the tabernacle: it is enough to say that the centre of that system of worship was sacrifice. That was the great truth which Moses had to copy upon earth.

It is important to note that the Greek word translated "Very image" is the same word as that used by St. Paul to express the relationship of Christ [28/29] to God (see 2 Corinthians iv. 4; Colossians i. 15). In these passages it signifies the verity of Deity veiled by the human nature.

What is the primary thought ideally connected with sacrifice? Sacrifice is the surrender of life; it is life given in love; it is love given in life. In God life and love are one. No wonder Moses face shone with an unearthly light when he had looked upon the glory of the life of God, and he had learned, however dimly, the truth, which is at the centre of the universe, that the Life of God is sacrifice; that is, the Life of God is an eternal giving and inter change of love. Give is the characteristic word of God: God in His essential nature is eternally giving. To say that "God is love," is to say that God is eternally giving Himself. "God so loved the world that he gave."

The Father gives Himself to the Son, the Son gives Himself to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the emanation of Their love. The Life of God is self-denial--the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father, and the Bond of Both is the Spirit. In creation God gave the Word, for by Him all things were made (St. John i. 3). Creation is the out flowing of the Life and Love of God. The intelligent part of creation responds by sacrifice, for from man's side sacrifice is the inflowing of man's life and love into the heart of God. Here we have the reflexion of the life of God. The life of God is the giving and receiving of love. The life of man is the receiving and giving of love. God gives, and then He receives; man receives, and then he gives.

But there came the great interruption of sin: the catastrophe of the fall. The outflow of God's love is checked, for man cannot receive it; the inflow of man's love is checked, for he no longer desires to give it. There is self-aggrandisement in the world in the place of self-denial; there is pride instead of humility; hate is expelling love.

[30] Sin, we may remember, did not come into the universe through man, but it spread to man. Yet from the first it was declared that man's fall was not irrevocable (Genesis iii. 15). The fall of the angels does seem to be irrevocable, possibly because they lived in such abundance of light and were free from external temptation. But man's fall was not final: fellowship between God and man was still possible, but the method of the fellowship was conditioned by that alien and unnatural evil of sin. So sacrifice has to change. New and terrible elements come into it. Sorrow, pain and death are now so inherent in sacrifice that we cannot think of it without them. Now, it is "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son to the end that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" (St. John iii. 16). When Moses saw the heavenly reality, he saw not only love, but love giving itself through pain and death--"the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation xiii. 8). Thus it was that the centre of the Levitical ritual on earth was necessarily sacrifice offered through pain and death. All the worship of Israel was marked with the truth: "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews ix. 22).

The great central truth, then, of the pattern shown to Moses on the Mount was that the approach to God is through sacrifice, through the surrender of life by death. This was the divinely revealed system of worship. Connected vitally with this central truth, and also set forth in the Levitical ritual, was the conception of the holiness of God, and of the abyss of separation between divine holiness and human sin. Only by sacrifice could the abyss be bridged and man admitted into fellowship with God. That the fellow ship might be an intimate fellowship was set forth by the mystic communion of God and the worshipper in the partaking of the sacrifice.

Project Canterbury