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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 IV. The Eucharist--The Presentation of Christ to Man

THE Eucharistic Sacrifice implies the Eucharistic life. The presentation of Christ is not complete in the Sanctuary: it begins there, but it does not stop there. When the priest after presenting them to God brings the sacred elements to the threshold of the Sanctuary and presents them to the people, and they are received and Christ is worshipped, then the sacrifice is to pass into the life. We are to go on presenting Christ and ourselves in Him to the Father in all the actions of our lives. The communicant's life is to be wholly sacrificial. It is to be linked inseparably with the offering of Christ. So St. Paul beseeches Christians to present their bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is their reasonable service," or, as it is translated in the margin of the English revised version, "spiritual worship" (Romans xii. I). He definitely uses sacrificial language to describe Christian action. The alms collected by the Philippians are "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice accept able, well pleasing to God" (Philippians iv. 18). Speaking of his own work he says to the Roman Church: "The grace that was given me of God that I should be a Minister (the Greek means sacrificing priest) of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, ministering in sacrifice the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable" (Romans [44/45] xv. 16). St. Paul depicts himself as standing at the altar as Priest of the Gospel, and the offering which he makes in union with Christ is the Gentile Church.

In Christianity worship and life are one. In no other religion is this so. The Hindu does not offer himself with his sacrifice. He offers a sacrifice apart from himself. He could not use the language that he uses of his sacrifice in connexion with his daily life. It would seem nonsense to him. But the Christian naturally uses the language which is applicable to his worship in reference to his conduct and life. "Service" may mean something done in Church, or it may mean something done in the street or the home or the workshop. All is one whole: there is to be no separation between the sanctuary and the home; between the sanctuary and the place of business; between the sanctuary and the work for others. If there were a separation, if we did not go on presenting Christ and ourselves in Him to the Father and to men, then our Eucharist and our Communion would be profanity. It is the Eucharist that proclaims the unity of life and worship.

Further, the Eucharist means this:--Christ has been presented to us; He has put Himself into our power, and we can do what we like with Him. The mystery of the Incarnation goes on. What He did when He was visibly incarnate on earth, He does now. He put Himself in the power of men, and they were able to do what they liked with Him. It seemed absurd to the Greek and Roman philosophers who ridiculed the idea of the Almighty surrendering Him self into the hands of His creatures, but "the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (i Corinthians i. 25). We also now have Christ put into our power: "Take eat, this is My body; drink ye all of it, for this is My blood." He is in our power: what shall we do with Him?

[46] (I) We may try to keep Him to ourselves. Many Christians try to do that. Sometimes a whole branch of the Christian Church tries to do that. Then they find they cannot. To try to keep Christ to yourself is to lose Him. It is Christ's own word: "He that saveth his life shall lose it." You could not keep Christ confined in the sanctuary. He is there in the verity of His Deity and Humanity, but He will not be kept there. He has been presented to us in order that we may re-present Him to others.

So another answer to the question as to what we shall do with Him is this:--

(2) We may misrepresent Him. We may par take of His flesh and His blood and carry Him out into the world, and then we may distort His image and put Him to an open shame. That is what the sins and selfishness of Christian people do. They distort Christ before men. Non-Christians look at us to see what our Christ is like, and we present them with a likeness which is no likeness but a caricature.

(3) We may do more than distort His image. We all do that, indeed, more or less. We can crucify Him in ourselves afresh. That is what the communicant does when he commits deadly sin. When he defiles his body by lust or his soul by lying, he crucifies Christ in himself afresh (Hebrews vi. 6). This is not merely a kind of parable: it is what is actually done in effect. The sacred humanity of Christ is put into the communicant's power, and lust and lying crucify Him. But

(4) with all his imperfection the communicant, who is daily striving to die unto sin, can [46/47] present Christ to the world that does not know Him. The humanity of Christ is of infinitely manifold beauty, and He wills to manifest that beauty through His body which is the Church. The body has many members, and each member is to show something of the beauty of Christ. Therefore it is that the grace of God is manifold (i St. Peter iv. 10), that is, it demands the response of many kinds of vocations. We are "stewards of the manifold grace of God," and stewards have to dispense what is entrusted to their care. The dispensing of the grace of God is the work of the communicant. The grace of God is the life of Jesus Christ, and he receives that life when he feeds upon the sacrificed humanity. Our vocation is God's offer to us of this grace, and it is offered for a particular kind of life and work. A profession is a work in life which a man chooses for himself; a vocation is the work in life which God chooses for him, and makes known to him if he seeks to know God's will. All Christians, of course, have the vocation to holiness. That was made known to them in their baptism. God did not call them "unto uncleanness but unto holiness" (I Thessalonians iv. 7). But within the vocation to holiness there are three kinds of vocation in which we can respond to the grace of God--

(I) There is the vocation to the ordinary states and tasks of life--the married life, the work of the schoolmaster or carpenter or clerk or official, and so on.

(2) There is the vocation to the sacred ministry--the vocation of those who serve in the sanctuary and become the servants of God and man.

[48] (3) There is the vocation to the life of the counsels--in which men are called to bind themselves closer to Christ, in the way of poverty, celibacy and obedience. That was especially His life on earth, and He gives vocations to men and women to live it. (See Chapter VIII.)

To sum up:--to the Christian the centre of Christian life and worship is in the perpetual pleading of the ascended Lord at the throne of the Father. In the Holy of Holies in heaven are an altar and a sacrifice; the sacrifice is the abiding offering of that sacred manhood which He took for man's salvation, the sacred manhood which was immolated on the cross. In this offering the whole Church on earth, in paradise, and in heaven has its place and share. Into it are gathered up all the elements of the sacrificial life which Christians live--sacrifices of praise and prayer, of purity and charity, of love and good works. To it there is access in communion, and he who keeps the feast with Jesus Christ is raised to be with Him in His heavenly work. To the communicant He entrusts Himself; the communicant proclaims to the Father "Behold the Lamb of God"; he proclaims to his fellow men "Behold the Lamb of God." To live the Eucharistic life is to be continually presenting Christ, and ourselves in Him, to God and continually presenting Him to our fellow men.

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