Today is the festival of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion, also known as the festival of Corpus Christi. It is one of what is known in the Roman Catholic Church as a ‘feast of devotion’ and within the Catholic and Anglican Church calendars it falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday is an opportunity to focus deeply on the extraordinary mystery of the Triune God because the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is so threaded through all our worship that we are in danger of overfamiliarity. In the same way, this day dedicated to the Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion is the opportunity to remind ourselves again of why the Eucharist is one of the two essential sacraments central to our Christian worship within the Church of England, and to recognise the profound mystery of how Christ, in his grace, gives himself to us and recreates us as his Church as we receive him in faith.
As the Christian Church, we have been and are very good at creating divisions within ourselves whether for theological, political or other reasons. Today is a good time to remember that, at the first Holy Communion at the Last Supper, Christ understood the fragility of humanity and the challenges his followers would face. He knew the world would try to take and break the unity and faith of his disciples, so he commanded a seemingly simple action of shared eating and drinking as a focus for remembering him, and he gave himself, blessed and broken in love, to nourish his Church and to re-member us. How we understand just what happens within the mystery of Holy Communion and how Jesus gives himself to us may differ, but it is Christ’s gift of love and unity to hold his followers together across all places and time. Despite our differences and diversity, we are one body for Christ and in Christ because we all share in one bread. Let us give thanks today to God for that.
Image – Stained glass from Church of St Michael the Archangel, Findlay, Ohio, available under Creative Commons by Nheyeb, 2011.