Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Do this in memory of me (my annual 're-run')

Christianity is very simple. All it requires is a memory and a vision; and, if you can get them, some bread, and wine, and water. - Kenneth Leech

Simplicity is hardly my strong point - yet my honest nature prompts me to further comment that the bread, wine, water, vision, and memory are perhaps the only universal factors which have united the Christian Church since its earliest days. (Well, all right ... I can develop an idea of the Church's going back to Adam... but let us save that for another day.) Looking back to a 'golden age' is a favourite pastime of everyone in every era, yet such have never existed.

I am not likely to call the Last Supper an actual celebration of the Eucharist - there can be no anamnesis of what has not yet happened. :) But I provide this 'annual reflection,' which I reserve for Holy Week, right now because I'm weeping my way through the liturgy, as usual for this time of year. Today at the Eucharist, for example, though I've heard the words literally thousands of times, I shed a tear when I heard "on the night he was betrayed..." (Even when I view the intellectually deficient film "King of Kings," I still cry when Lucius says to Barabbas, "Go! Look upon him who is dying for you!") I wept through "All glory, laud, and honour" on Palm Sunday (not as much as I shall when we cry out "He is risen indeed" a few days hence), not only because I know the same crowd shouting "Hosanna" cried out "Crucify Him!" a few days later, but because it gives me a thrill to think those Hosannas to the Son of David have echoed for 2,000 years. My regulars will recognise the sentiments, but blogging for all of these years taught me what I already knew from being a student for a century - original ideas are rare, and I think Einstein was the last to have one. :)

One wonders what the apostles were like. (I am also a peasant, yet the intellectual snob in me turns up her nose at the thought of their not being able to grasp the simplest parables and that most of them smelled of fish...) When I was reading Luke yesterday, I had to smile, seeing how, right to the end, the apostles were tossing about the idea of who would have the highest place in the kingdom. Ah, yes, arguments about authority...

It is all too easy, particularly if one not only watches the scriptural epics and reads the 'Lives of Christ' of another time, and has been exposed to the 'see how these Christians love one another' myth, to picture twelve intense young men, in great awe at having been first to see the ritual which would sustain the Church until the parousia. Actually, what was present at the Last Supper was a prototype of another sort. :) I am sure that at least one traditionalist was frowning that Jesus had changed the form for the Pesach meal with all this "cup of my blood" business. Those who were either simple or highly observant would question why the Passover was anticipated a day early. (Well, at least, in that day, they were spared the irate vegetarian's protests about the lamb, and no one offered the cup would have irately commented, "But wine is a drug!") Judas was on verge of betraying the Master. I would imagine that Matthew was still sensitive about why Judas held the purse, considering all of his own experience as a tax collector. The disciples were conflicted about who would be the kingpins (I suppose when the Messiah toppled Roman rule.) "The Rock," who had learnt insufficient humility from that sad incident of attempting to walk on water, was making bold promises he'd soon find were beyond him. (I've no doubt Peter made sure he was prominent during the "Hosanna" procession... why he hung out in the court of Caiaphas later on Thursday night still puzzles me... Perhaps it was poetic justice, since wonderfully fallible Peter of Rome would live to see what has endured - the sort of priests foreshadowed by Annas and Caiaphas also would exist till the parousia...) The lot of them would scatter in fear before the night was out.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Church.

Still, whenever I heard the words of consecration at the Eucharist, it moves me to think that the perpetual memorial has endured for two millenia. For all the conflict, persecution, quarrels, heresy, whatever, which the early Church faced, that bread, wine, and water was the catholic element - and these rituals of common worship kept the Church from crumbling when many a reform movement of the time would die out quickly enough. Jerusalem would fall - the Word would spread to Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Gaul, etc., with Christians being the odd ones who conformed neither to Jewish nor pagan society.

All that was common, then or now, was worship - praise and thanksgiving - water, bread, and wine (and oil, and incense... forgive me, since I am so High Church) - the memory and vision, and the scriptures. We shall never accept that, of course. :) Till the end, I'm sure that those of us who are avid believers will think that some ideal of unity and love will prevail. Yes, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow... but not everyone will be happy and grateful at that gesture. :)

Lord, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness, comes from you, through your Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age, you gather a people to yourself, so that from East to West a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name...

...out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life... - I must stop here, because I'm crying again.

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