Project Canterbury


Talks on






Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012


Introduction: page 1
Chapter I: Institution of The Holy Communion, page 5
Chapter II: The Eucharist Becomes the Norm of Christian Worship, page 9
Chapter III: The Meaning of Communion, page 16
Chapter IV: The Meaning of Fellowship, page 22
Chapter V: The Meaning of Salvation, page 24
Chapter VI: The Communion of Saints, page 29
Chapter VII: The Priesthood of All Christians, page 34
Conclusion: page 36


When our Lord first sent forth his disciples to preach the Gospel, the Good News, their text was "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" All of the implications of this message were not immediately evident. In fact they could not be until after the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, of Christ had been accomplished. It was in the light of these supreme events that the Gospel was to be interpreted. It was now the Gospel of Salvation, but it was still the Gospel of the Kingdom. This means that Salvation has a corporate and social aspect.

Protestantism has rightly laid stress on the necessity of personal salvation. "It is not belonging to the Church, but your own personal, individual faith which saves you." But it has often failed to grasp the truth that salvation is something more than an individual relationship between the soul and God. It is also a lateral relationship with our fellow men. If we are saved by our union with Christ, our Head, we are also saved by union with the members of his Body. We are united to him; we are also members one of another. Because protestants have [1/2] emphasized the individual aspects of religion, they have made corporate relations a secondary matter.

Take for example the attitude of the average Christian toward public worship. The average Christian believes in the positive sanction of the moral law. Under no circumstances would he excuse himself for untruthfulness, dishonesty, or impurity in thought, word, or deed. His conscience would upbraid him for any violation of the commandments on the second table of the law. He has no such feeling about the first table. The giving to God, the worship of God, are not matters of obligation but rather of voluntary choice. His conscience does not upbraid him if he neglects the corporate duties of religion for weeks at a time. He still considers himself a good Christian.

On the other hand, look at the rather-less-than average Catholic. He may not always be as careful about some things as we might wish, but one thing is certain about him, he will go to mass on Sunday. There is here an absolute loyalty which we cannot but admire. Which of these two attitudes is true Christianity? The answer is, both. On the positive side both are right. Religion is both personal and corporate. It is both ethical and social.

[3] This difference in attitude which we have described, may account for the lessened emphasis which protestants place on the Communion service as a corporate act of worship. The Catholic tradition makes it a matter of obligation for every Christian to take part every Sunday in this service, at least to the extent of being present and "assisting" at the oblation.

It is also probable that the revolt against the superstitious veneration of Saints, has destroyed the sense of the reality of the Communion of Saints and their participation with us in the life of intercession and worship. What we have to do is to regain not alone the sense of obligation, but the experience of happiness and privilege which we have lost in neglecting this greatest of all forms of Christian worship, and of restoring it again in our own lives and in our own Communion, to that place which it occupied in the Apostolic Church and for sixteen centuries of undivided Christian life and devotion.


Institution of
The Holy Communion

THERE are four accounts of the Institution of the Holy Communion or Lord's Supper in the New Testament. These are found in each of the first three Gospels and in St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians.

In St. John's Gospel, however, there is no direct mention of the Holy Supper. There is in the sixth Chapter a long discourse about the Bread from Heaven, which most certainly refers to it. In this chapter Christ says that "He is the True Bread which came down from Heaven. That if a man eats of this Bread he shall live forever, and that this true Bread is his flesh which he will give for the life of the world. That he that eateth his flesh and drinketh his blood shall have everlasting life, and that except we eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, we have no life in us." We can understand that these words had a stunning effect on those who heard them, yet later, when at the Last Passover, Jesus took the bread and wine and said, "take and eat, drink [5/6] ye all of this, for this is my Body; and, This is my Blood," they understood how the command was to be fulfilled.

The Church has continued to 'do this', to perform this service, and will continue to do so until his coming again. The words are as startling to us after 20 centuries, and we can only say as St. Peter did, when some of the disciples began to murmur, "Lord, to whom shall we go, Thou hast the words of eternal life." We take the words of Christ and we understand them in the way in which he spoke them.

The sayings of Christ are to be taken in a spiritual and heavenly sense, but that does not imply that they have no meaning. It implies the most profound reality and truth. If we are asked why we speak in our Prayer Book of "Eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood," we can only reply that those are the words of Christ Himself, they indicate the most profound reality, and that we mean by them just what Christ meant when he spoke them.

Someone will ask, If you take this command and these words of Christ in such a literal sense, why do you not take other words and commands of Christ in the same way. For example; [6/7] St. John as we have seen, says nothing about the institution of the Lord's Supper, but in his account of the same night, he tells of another interesting symbolic act of Christ and a command to perpetuate it. We read that after supper Jesus took a towel and basin of water and began to wash the disciples feet and dry them with the towel and said, "I your Lord and master have washed your feet, ye are to wash one another's feet." It is a fair question to ask, why do Christians universally obey one command, literally, and the other symbolically, or occasionally, if at all?

There are some Christians who take this precept literally, and regard feet washing as an essential part of the Christian religion. This brings us to consider the proper interpretation of the Holy Scripture. In the first place, the beliefs and forms of worship in the Christian Church were in existence before the New Testament was written. They formed an oral tradition, for 20 years before St. Paul wrote his first letter; to the Thessalonians. The Gospels were not written until after most of the twelve apostles had died, and St. John's Gospel not until the close of the first century. Thus the creed, the organization, and the worship of the Church came into being quite independent of the New Testament. So the [7/8] New Testament, when it appeared was interpreted by the Church in accord with its own established customs and traditions. The custom of the Church represented the consensus of opinion and belief of the Christian brotherhood. The command to break the Bread and drink the Cup was understood literally throughout the Church. The command to wash one another's feet was understood symbolically, of lowly and loving service, which Christians were always to render to one another.

This rule of general acceptance in the Church is called the canon of St. Vincent of Lerins, who enunciated it in the 5th century. "That is of faith," he said "which has been believed and practiced, always, everywhere, and by all, throughout the Church."

This canon of universal acceptance answers many questions which cannot otherwise be settled. For example the question of infant Baptism. When Christ said, "Go baptize all nations," did that include infants or not? Some say, "No." but the universal custom of the Church from the beginning say "Yes." So we interpret the Bible by the institution which produced it, the Holy Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Holy Scripture, and the Holy Spirit abides in the Church and guides it into all truth.


The Eucharist Becomes The Norm of Christian Worship

WHILE the Christian Church inherited from the Jewish Church the Synagogue worship, which developed in western christendom into the Breviary, and then, in the Church of England, into the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, the chief service of worship was the celebration of the Lord's Supper or the Holy Eucharist, as St. Paul calls it. This was the culmination of a long line of religious customs both in the Old Testament and among the Gentiles as well. We might go back to the Garden of Eden when Cain and Abel presented articles of food upon the altar of Jehovah. The early sacrifices of the Hebrew people were of a social nature in which certain parts of the animal, such as the blood, were burnt on the altar, and the remainder eaten by the worshippers. Thus David and Solomon sacrificed many thousands of bulls and sheep upon great occasions. The Passover became a sacred tradition commemorating [9/10] deliverance from slavery, and it was against the background of this religious observance that the Lord's Supper came into being.

On the other hand, the Greeks had similar sacred feasts in connection with their religious rites, as appears in St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians. It is claimed by some scholars that the Eucharist was copied from the Greek Mystery religions; but whatever superficial similarity there may have been, and as a matter of fact, we do not know very much about the Greek Mysteries, we have only to read what St. Paul says about them to feel his abhorrence. Their gods were devils, "He that sat at meat in a heathen temple and drank the wine drank the cup of devils." "You cannot be partakers of the Lord's Table and the table of devils." However, the fact that religion found expression in this form as a symbol of communion both with the deity and with the fellow communicants, both among the Jews and the Gentiles alike, shows that it was not incongruous to human nature, just as both Jews and Gentiles alike practiced baptism or the sprinkling of holy water as a symbol of spiritual purification. So Christ who changed the water into wine did not hesitate to take those two universal forms of religious expression, the purification with water, [10/11] and the common sharing of holy food in the temple, and make them sacraments of the New Covenant.

So it was natural that the Table of the Lord, the Christian Altar, became the focus of Christian worship in obedience to Christ's command, and that the offering of the sacrifice of Christ himself in commemoration of his great act of redemption, became central in the Christian Brotherhood, and the constantly renewing source of union with one another and with their divine Master.


The form employed in the celebration of this service was called the Liturgy, which is the Greek word for a religious service. It almost immediately developed into a pattern which was uniform throughout the Church. This pattern consisted of certain essential parts, which were always included. However, in different localities these parts were used in varying order, and each local Church had its own liturgy. The parts consisted of, first, a penitential litany, said or sung by the Deacon. This was followed by readings from the Old Testament prophets, the Epistles of the New Testament, and the Gospels. There was a sermon [11/12] or instruction; the Creed was recited in unison. Then there were intercessions for all men, and especially for the Christian brothers and clergy in other parts of the world. There was also a commemoration of the faithful departed and of the saints and martyrs who had died in the Faith. These Liturgies were in the Language of the people, and the more classic were in the Greek tongue. The Greek language was used at first in the Church at Rome, and in the Latin Mass today there are still the Greek words, "Kyrie Eleison, Christie Eleison, Kyrie Eleison," a survival of the days when the whole service was in Greek.

Then came the offertory, that is, the bringing of the offerings of the people including the bread and the wine, followed by the "Lift up your hearts" and the preface, "Therefore with Angels and Archangels," culminating in the Angelic Hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy." The prefaces, leading up to the Sanctus were very long, often times. Then came the Consecration, that is the recitation of the words of Institution, and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, the offering of the Holy Gifts to God, the "Oblation of the Sacrifice," the Communion of the people, then thanksgiving and the Blessing. The Sacred gifts were sometimes [12/13] carried to the sick and others who were not able to attend.

This service was long from our point of view. In the earlier liturgies it required several hours to perform, and today the Greek Orthodox Liturgy, as well as the Syrian, requires about three hours. The spirit of Western devotion is much more expedite, and both the Latin Mass, and the English Communion Service may be reverently said, (without music or sermon,) in half an hour. Still we have people clamoring for shorter services! The Latin Mass and the English Communion contain all of the elements above enumerated, except the Litany and the Old Testament Prophesy, but in greatly shortened form.

In Medieval times superstitious beliefs and customs grew about the service, and while the mass was celebrated daily, the laity received the sacrament very infrequently. At the time of the Reformation in England the service was translated into English, and the custom of lay communion was revived, the law requiring reception of the sacrament at least three times a year. While the Prayer Book provided for a celebration for each Sunday and Holy Day, and even a daily observance, the custom grew of reading only the first part of the service, the Collect, Epistle and Gospel and omitting [13/14] the actual communion, except three or four times a year. It was John Wesley, a Priest of the English Church, also the founder of Methodism, who revived the custom of weekly communion in England, and derived his name "Methodist" from his faithful adherence to the rubrics of the Prayer Book.

During the First World War, Pius the Tenth, then head of the Roman Church, revived the custom of Daily Communion on the part of the laity, and so honored was his injunction that today there are thousands of devout laity who receive the Sacrament daily at the altars of the Roman Church. This is entirely an apostolic custom for we read in the New Testament that the disciples "continued daily in the Breaking of Bread."

The English speaking Protestants have continued with their reformation custom of observing the Lord's Supper about once in three months. With the exception of the "Christians" or Campbellites, the one protestant denomination that makes a point of celebrating the Lords Supper each Lords Day, in which they too have revived the spirit of New Testament Christianity.

In the Episcopal Church there is generally a celebration of the Holy Communion at some hour, [14/15] on every Sunday, as well as on Saints Days and other week days, and there are a growing number of parishes where there is a daily communion service.


The Meaning of Communion

IN order to understand sacramental communion, it is necessary for us to know the Biblical background upon which it rests. According to the Hebrew folk-lore, man was made in the image of God and was placed in a garden in which he lived in close companionship with the deity. God came down and walked with him and talked with him in the cool of the evening. A life of close companionship was the normal relation which existed at the time of man's creation. It was, however, soon broken by man's disobedience, and so the barrier of sin beclouded the life of communion and friendly companionship. There were instances when the old relation was restored in the case of the Patriarchs, and we are told that they walked with God, as in the old days before the fall. However, these instances were exceptional, and the restoration of Paradise was not achieved until the new covenant in Christ overcame sin and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. The Kingdom of Heaven, whatever the term may connote, certainly implies a state of restored communion with the King.

[17] How much of this early folk-lore is fancy and how much is fact? We may certainly believe that man is made in the image of God. This of course does not mean man's bodily frame, for this he shares with the vertebrate animals, and God has no bodily form or substance. It is man's mind, or soul, or spirit, or ego, (all of these terms mean the same thing) which is made in the image of God. Man's mind has a three-fold operation. He can think, feel, and will. Thinking includes imagination, reason, memory, fancy, and other forms of mental process, all of which are included in the category of thought. In the second place man can feel. He has emotions, of attraction and repulsion. He can love and hate. These emotions are distinct from reason, and are incentives to action. The third form of mental activity is the will or determination, which is free within the limits of human activity and which says, "I will," or "I won't." No power can destroy this freedom of choice, which is the essential possession of every human personality. When we think of God, our Father, we can only think of him in the terms of human experience. We have a mind, or we are a mind, then God must be an infinite mind. He must be all wise. He must know all things. There can be nothing hid from his all seeing eye. We can love and hate, and so God [17/18] must also love and hate. But whereas our feelings are impure, and our desires are debased, God's love is altogether pure, and he hates iniquity and evil. We are free within the limit of our small powers, but God is infinitely free and powerful, with no limit outside his own nature, and so we say that God, our Father, is All knowing, All loving, and All powerful. Sometimes we say He is infinite wisdom, love and power. But this means that he is a person who possesses infinite wisdom, power and love.

Having now defined what is meant by the image of God in man, we can understand the teaching of Christ and his apostles in regard to our relationship with the Heavenly Father. Our Lord constantly uses this term in his teaching. The attitude of man is to be that of a child toward his father. "Your Father knoweth what ye have need of before ye ask him. Be ye perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Do good to those who persecute you, so shall ye be the children of your Father which is in Heaven. If your Father so clothes the grass of the field, how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith."

Turning to St. Paul, he quotes with approval the Greek poets, "In Him we live and move and [18/19] have our being." "and Ye are also his offspring." St. John says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." And again, "he that loveth, dwelleth in God and God in Him." It was the office of Christ to restore this sonship, and to bring it to a higher level than man's original state of innocence. So Christ is the medium through whom this union with God is achieved. "No one cometh to the Father but me." Christ was in the world reconciling it to God. So Christ is put on in Baptism, when we become His disciples. As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. "Know ye not that Christ dwelleth in you except ye be reprobate. Ye have the mind of Christ." So in many ways, St. Paul impresses upon us the very close and intimate union between Christ and the believer. "Christ in you is the hope of glory. Ye are dead and your lives are hid with Christ in God."

Also the Spirit is instrumental in this divine indwelling. Christ has much to say about the indwelling Spirit of God. "As a father gives good gifts to his children, even so will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." St. Paul says, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." "Your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit;" The constant [19/20] prayer of the Christian is, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from us."

Thus we see that the normal life of the Christian believer is that of a child of God, in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit unite to help, to guide, to strengthen him in the way of goodness. His life is a walk with God, a companionship, a fellowship, a communion with the Eternal.

It may be said that all this is highly figurative, it is on the plane of faith and uplifted imagination, rather than of cold hard fact, and if we deduct the poetic element, how much residuum is there? Very well, we will look at hard facts. There is nothing more real in human experience than the sense of obligation. The categorical Imperative, as it is called. It is the voice that says to us, "You ought," and "you ought not!" That is the voice of eternal righteousness in our souls and the voice of eternal righteousness is the voice of God. Every moment of our lives we are exercising our freedom of choice, and while we experience this freedom, we know that there is a moral guide that constantly says, "you ought to do right, you ought not to do wrong." As soon as we recognize that this still small voice is the voice of God, we know that we are walking with him [20 21] day by day. In him we live and move and have our being. Is this truth or fancy? It might be said of our physical life, in Nature we live and move and have our being. That is perfectly true. We can never step outside of its laws or its bounds. So in the moral sphere, we cannot step outside the laws of truth and of righteousness, that is, outside of the realm of God. It is literally true that in Him we live and move and have our being.

Also as Christians we know that from him all holy desires, all good counsels and all just works do proceed. Here again we have the three fold operation of the human spirit, and in all three activities, of intellect, emotion, and will, it is the indwelling Spirit of God that initiates them. This explains the Christian doctrine of grace, that all goodness in us is from God. That all evil in us is from self, and that therefore whatever goodness our lives may exhibit, is due wholly to the grace of God. "Not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy Name O Lord !"


The Meaning of Fellowship

As a necessary consequence of the doctrine just discussed, namely our oneness with God in Christ, and in his Holy Spirit, it is an equally important truth that all believers in Christ are one. St. Paul says not only that we are members of Christ, of his flesh and of his bones, but also that we are members one of another. Christians form one united body in which all are as closely united in a common life as the eyes and ears and hands and feet and bones and muscles of a human frame. Their life is interdependent on one another. The hands cannot live without the feet, or the bones without the flesh. This unity is expressed in the term "body" and "family". If we are children of God, then we are brothers and sisters one of another. Hence we have the term, the "brotherhood of man". An unanswerable argument may be made from Holy Scripture for the brotherhood of man, or for that matter, from the Greek poets which St. Paul quotes. But until the right relationship is recognized between humanity and God, that is, between each human soul and God, the phrase "brotherhood of man" [22/23] is often an empty formula. Christ came to reconcile man to God and restore the true relationship between fallen man and his heavenly Father. Hence it is only in Christ that true human brotherhood can be realized. As the indwelling Christ alone creates true brotherhood, so the manifest spirit of brotherhood is the proof of the indwelling Christ. "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren." "If any man say he loves God and hates his brother, he is a liar and the truth is not in him." Individual perfection can only be attained in the brotherhood. We can only come in the unity of the faith to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. So St. John tells us that Christ prays that his followers may all be perfect in one.


The Meaning of Salvation

AGAINST the background of our relation to God, as his children, and our relation to one another as brethren, we can understand the purpose and meaning of the great central service of Christian worship which we call the Holy Communion. It is to constantly renew and strengthen this union with God and this fellowship with one another.

1. In the first place it reiterates the truth that our spiritual life is dependent on Christ as our bodily life is on our daily bread. No man, however strong or wise can live without bread. He would starve miserably. So our souls cannot live without Christ. He is the bread of life. He is the true manna of the soul. He is the bread that came down from heaven which if a man eat he will live eternally. Christ is our life.

As it is Christ's incarnate humanity which mediates God's truth and grace to us, so he takes the bold figure of giving himself to be our food. Continuing this analogy, Christ is not only the Good Shepherd who feeds his sheep, he is also the [24/25] Good Physician who heals our diseases. Logically this step comes first. He heals us, and then he feeds us. Both of these ideas are united in Holy Communion. We come to him for healing and for sustenance. Both of these ideas are contained in the word Salvation. Christ is our Saviour because he fulfills both of these blessings for us. We must not underestimate the negative side of salvation which is redemption from sin. Without Christ we are lost. We and all mankind are in a state of sin which eventually and inevitably results in the death of the soul. In former ages an undue emphasis was laid on the idea of salvation from hell. The whole scope of redemption was projected into a future life. The Bible does not speak of salvation from hell, which is the consequence of sin, but from sin itself, here and now.

We have only to look about us in the world today to see the hell that sinful men have made. The hell of war is a graphic picture of the wickedness of mankind. We seek to place the blame for war on this nation or that; on this leader or that politician; on this philosophy or that ideology. But we are all guilty, and if the war should stop today through some miraculous intervention, all the causes of strife would remain to break out in some future avalanche of destruction. [25/26] When we trace it back, it is the evil in the human hearts, the pride and covetousness and lust and malice and envy and greed and sloth of human nature, in fact, the seven deadly sins. Salvation then means first of all salvation from sin. "This is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." "As oft as ye eat this bread and drink this Cup, ye do show the Lord's death until he come." "If I be lifted up will draw all men unto me." The Eucharistic service is first of all the lifting up of Christ in the sacrament, in remembrance of his lifting up on the cross. It is the perpetual memorial of his atonement for the sins of the whole world. So Christians have found cleansing in the representation of his passion which is repeatedly shown forth in the mystery of the Altar. Through faith in his blood we receive remission of our sins and all other benefits of his passion. He died for us upon the cross, and it is this great fact that is the power of salvation to them that believe. We cannot in this life become entirely immune from sin. We are again and again reinfected by our contact with the world, and by the unruly desires of our selfish hearts, but the power of sin is broken the more we turn to the cross.

"Let the water and the blood
From thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Save me from its guilt and power."

[27] Some christian people, notably among the protestant Churches, make this memorial almost exclusively, the meaning and interpretation of the communion service. But it is only the half of its meaning. The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to show that the sacrifice of the Cross was but the beginning of Christ's priestly work, which he initiated on earth, and then continues in the Heavenly sanctuary as our great High Priest in Heaven, where he is now fulfilling his work as our mediator and intercessor.

We miss the greater significance of the service if we dwell simply on the Cross. That is the first and essential step in our Lord's priesthood. But he carries the merits of the Cross into heaven itself and there presents his perfect humanity as a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto God, and by the merits of this eternal offering forever pleads for us. "If any man sin, (and this includes all humanity) we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins." Not only was the passion of Christ on the cross the propitiation for [27/28] our sins, but the righteousness of Christ, who lives forevermore, is now and forever the propitiation for our sins.

This is the active side of the Eucharistic service. Here we exercise our own priesthood. Passively we remember the passion that is past; that we shall never forget. Actively we offer to God the living Christ, or rather we join with Him in offering the whole Church, the whole body of Christ, its head and members of which also we are a part. The Church thus continually offers itself to God, as his obedient family, having no other thought or desire but to do his will. Of course it can only offer this sacrifice in Christ, and as united to him, but it is none the less the very essence of worship and adoration. We come to the Altar and offer Christ to God, we offer ourselves to God, we offer the whole Church to God, not trusting in our own righteousness but in his manifold and great mercy. This is the positive side of Eucharistic worship. We offer again and again ourselves to God.


The Communion of Saints

LET us think further of the meaning of Holy Communion as the manifestation and strengthening of our union with the other members of Christ's mystical body. First, we show our mutual love and regard for those who are members of the same congregation. For this reason the Prayer Book provides that we are not to approach the Altar "if our brother have aught against thee. First be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift." We are all children of one Father and all brethren at his table.

This also includes all who are absent from us in other places. As they come to the Altar, and are united to Christ, so we also are united to them in heart and spirit, though we are separated in body. We are one with them, and they are one with us. In worship we break down the bars of space and sense. This also includes those who have passed out of the earthly life and have entered into the world of immortality. They are closer to Christ than we are. Jesus says to those [29/30] who die in the faith, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." St. Paul says, "I would rather die and be with Christ." Whatever may be the exact state of the departed when they have put off the mortal flesh, we have the assurance that they are in the hands of God, that they are with Christ. They are more than ever a part of his mystical body. They are perfected and glorified, they have washed their clothes and made them white, and so they are a part of that glorious Church that is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. It is therefore an inspiring experience day by day and year by year to renew our fellowship in that blessed company, and to join with them in presenting ourselves before the Throne!

But we have not yet exhausted the riches of this holy fellowship. We are come not only to the general assembly of the first born whose names are written in Heaven, to the souls of just men made perfect, but also to an innumerable company of angels. We join with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven. It is humiliating to us to feel a sense of helplessness in picturing the existence of the angelic host. We have never seen an angel. We are even lacking in our imaginative power in picturing what they are. Not so the people we read about in the [30/31] Bible. They saw visions of angels, from Genesis to Revelation. To most of the people they appeared on earth simply as men. But to Isaiah and Ezekiel and Zechariah and St. John the Divine, they were marvelous, passing human description. Is there any room in our narrow and clouded vision for such splendid members of the Church?

Singularly enough, the difficulty is not in our reason or intelligence, but in our imagination. William James says in one of his writings, that it is absurd to suppose that in this vast universe, human intelligence is the highest development of rational power. We begin with the lowest forms of sentient life and trace an ascending plane of intelligence up to man. Does it stop there? Such a conclusion, James said would be unbelievably egotistic and absurd. The universe must be filled with intelligences far above our limited human experience. They are about us, and perceive us though we do not perceive them. James says the universe is like a room filled with very intelligent people, in which there are also a number of cats and dogs. The cats and dogs, see the people and hear them talk, but they do not understand what is being said. Well, we are the cats and dogs, and we think we are the only people in God's world! Some day we shall know better.

[32] St. Paul says that we are running a race in an arena with a great cloud of spectators, occupying the seats above us. And the marvelous thing is that they are actually interested in us, and are encouraging us in running the race. It is a humiliating and inspiring thought, but to make it real, we must think of it and picture it to ourselves. While we are far removed from these great spirits, there is one experience that we may share in common, namely worship. They too are creatures of the same Father, and their highest thought is to worship him and do him reverence. So thus we meet at God's Altar. Rather we are lifted up to the Heavenly sphere, and join with them in worshipping the Lamb. We pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." We know little about Heaven. We know little about the experiences of the Saints in Glory, they go from strength to strength. We know little about the life of the Angels, and the great thoughts that occupy their minds. Some of them are so thrilled with the vision of the eternal that they are like burning flames. But one experience we share with them. We join in the song of all creation, of Heaven and earth in saying, "Holy Holy Holy!" This, and nothing else than this, is the Communion of Saints. This, and nothing less than this, is to eat of the Heavenly Manna, and to share in the vision of the Lamb!

[33] Some one will say, "But this is all imagination!" Certainly it is imagination. All creation is imagination. It was by the power of imagination that God created the world. It is this faculty in man, which is a part of the image of God, that creates all art and all beauty. All beautiful pictures are imagination. All beautiful music is imagination. All invention is imagination, all discovery is imagination. It is the golden key that unlocks for man the treasures of beauty and of truth, and without it man would be but a beast that nourishes a dull life within the brain. Let us then use this God given faculty which we call imagination, but which the Saints call faith, to see things that are invisible and eternal. "The things that are seen are temporal but the things that are not seen are eternal."


The Priesthood of All Christians

COMMUNION is a mutual action. It is the sharing of life and affection and interests between two or more people. We often fail to receive the full benefit of our communions because we think only of what we receive. We think of Communion as Christ coming to us in our need, cleansing us from sin, and walking with us in newness of life, giving us help and companionship, and daily help for daily need.

Do we think of Communion as entering into his life and sharing with him in his work? As a living part of his body, we must realize what his work is in the world, and how much he needs us to help him, just as we need him to help us. Communion is active participation in the life of the Body, and the work of the Body. It means that we are going out to witness for him, and build his kingdom.

But there is something more. He has made us kings and priests unto God. What does this mean? It means that we have communion with [34/35] Christ in his priestly work. He is in heaven now interceding for us. He is offering himself, and his whole Body, (and we as a part of it) as a living sacrifice. Christ is forever and eternally presenting himself as a living sacrifice unto God. He is our great High Priest. He is the only true priest, but we share with him in his priesthood. At each Communion service we join with Christ in offering Him and ourselves and the whole body, and our intercessions for the whole fellowship of Christ's people.

When we come to Church, then, when we draw near to the Altar, it is not only to have Christ come and share our life, but we come to Him and share his life, his priesthood and his sacrifice, and offer our intercessions, in union with him. We have a definite action to perform which honors God, and which forwards to salvation of men.

Christ is the true priest and the true sacrifice at every Altar. Not so much that he comes down to us, but rather that we are lifted up to the heavenly sphere. In this service we enter into the open door which St. John saw in Patmos, and join with all the heavenly host in the worship of the Lamb. Worship and dominion and power and glory be unto him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb. Forever and Ever!


[36] AND when the song is sung and the Blessing has been given and the lights are out and the vision has passed, we see Jesus only. We go down from the mount and back again to the world and to our daily duties and engagements and Jesus goes with us. He helps us to do the tasks which we are not able to do of our own strength. He gives us inspiration and power. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus is with us always, even unto the end of the world!

This is Communion,
This is Salvation,
This is Eternal Life!

Project Canterbury