Thursday, October 09, 2008

We are the Body of Christ…

When we gather for the Eucharist we gather in the Name of Jesus, who is calling us together to remember his death and resurrection in the breaking of the bread. There he is truly among us. "Where two or three meet in my name," he says, "I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20).

The presence of Jesus among us and in the gifts of bread and wine are the same presence. As we recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread, we recognise him also in our brothers and sisters. As we give one another the bread, saying: "This is the Body of Christ," we give ourselves to each other saying: "We are the Body of Christ." It is one and the same giving, it is one and the same body, it is one and the same Christ.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

This is an astonishing thought, and it makes sense, somehow, of the feeling I always have at the Eucharist, of incredible closeness to my sisters and brothers at the altar rail. It always slightly surprises me that this intensely personal, intimate almost, sense I have of Christ's presence in "broken bread and wine outpoured" is not a private thing. We are so used in our time to thinking of the words "private" and "personal" as being inextricably connected, yet here they certainly are not. In fact, the more personal, immediate, is the sense of the presence of Christ, and of his indwelling Spirit, the stronger this feeling I have of love, and more than we normally understand by love, for those around me. Truly we who are many are one body, because we all share in one bread. It isn't any longer a liturgical formula: it's experienced reality, as ordinary and real and concrete and sensible as bread, say, or wine.

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