Thursday, April 14, 2022

Reenactors we are not. . .

One of the pitfalls of the modern liturgical movement has been its pursuit of the sources not simply for information or explanation of the present but as something to be reclaimed and reenacted in our own times.  If the earliest liturgy was simple, then simplicity is our goal today (even though there is little more than a presupposition that the early Christian liturgy was simple).  If the earliest liturgy was celebrated around a table, then an altar gets in the way.  If the earliest liturgy was a communal meal, then a communal meal is what we must have.  It has reduced the whole of Christ's legacy and testament to a mere even to be remembered or, more profoundly, reenacted.  That is precisely NOT what we do tonight.


Reenactors we are not.  We are not here to mimic what Christ did as if that were the appreciation He desires nor are we here to imagine what the Upper Room must have been like (so much different than our gathering).  No, that is not our goal or our purpose.  We come tonight as the called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Spirit.  We are a people washed in baptismal water and a people who have heard in our ears the living voice of the Son of God.  We are the guilty who have been forgiven and the unclean who have been made righteous.  We are not here to remember a mere event but to receive what was given to the disciples first that they might give to those who come after them.  

The meal is not ours to play with (one of the reasons I am not a fan of Seder meals held by Christians).  We are here to receive what Christ has placed in this blessed Sacrament -- His flesh and blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.  We are not actors but those who receive, who humbly receive in repentance and faith, what Christ has pledged and promised.  On this Holy Thursday, it is not about us but for us.  On this Maundy Thursday, it is not about a new law to love as Christ loves us but about a sacrament so filled with grace that it transforms our hearts and wills.  The love we have received moves us to love others -- not to earn or merit anything but simply as the response of faith.


This solemn but joyful night begins with absolution to the sinner.  This is not some perfunctory rite that must be done but the privilege of grace upon those unworthy and undeserving of such kindness.  God comes to us sinners but He does not leave us in sin.  Where Christ is (in His Word and Sacrament), there is forgiveness, life, and salvation.  What we receive is not only the fulfillment of the Passover but the foretaste of the eternal feast to come.  Christ is the center of it all.  From this absolution, we hear the Word of God place this night in the context of His Passion.  Then we are bidden by Christ to come and eat believing His Word -- This is My body and This is My blood. 


This mystery is not meant for the mind to comprehend or the explanation to simplify its majesty.  No, indeed, we meet the mystery on the ground of faith, praising God for doing what He promised and acknowledging that the Lamb of God is not an image to impart understanding but bread that tastes of His flesh and wine that tastes of His blood.  In the face of this mystery, we kneel, give thanks, adore, and feast.  This night is not its own but part of a sacred three day service and the benediction will have to wait until the alleluia is back and Easter has dawned.  Until then the body we eat is Christ's flesh for the life of the world and the blood we drink is His blood that cleanses us from all our sin.  The service will pause until it begins anew on Good Friday.  It will continue in the waiting of Holy Saturday.  But the end will not come until the Vigil and its Eucharist -- the first of many to announce that He who died is risen!


640 Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior


1 Thee we adore, O hidden Savior, Thee,
Who in Thy Sacrament art pleased to be;
Both flesh and spirit in Thy presence fail,
Yet here Thy presence we devoutly hail.


2 In this memorial of Thy death, O Lord,
Thou dost Thy body and Thy blood afford:
Oh, may our souls forever feed on Thee,
And Thou, O Christ, forever precious be.


3 Thou, like the pelican to feed her brood,
Didst pierce Thyself to give us living food;
Thy blood, O Lord, one drop has pow’r to win
Forgiveness for our world and all its sin.


4 Fountain of goodness, Jesus, Lord and God:
Cleanse us, unclean, with Thy most cleansing blood;
Increase our faith and love, that we may know
The hope and peace which from Thy presence flow.


5 O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see,
May what we thirst for soon our portion be:
To gaze on Thee unveiled and see Thy face,
The vision of Thy glory, and Thy grace.


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