Sermon for the First Sunday after Trinity (Remembering Corpus Christi)
14th Jun 2020
Sermon for Trinity 1 2020 (Year A)
Ordinary Sundays of the Year and also Corpus Christi 2020
The Christian faith and the emergence of the Church owes its existence to the fact that God had chosen to make himself known to us through Jesus and through his saving death and resurrection.
This had for the early Church become their ‘new normal’. The life of the Church was express as fully as possible the life of Christ. What emerged was a diverse community whose binding identity lay in the fact of its being a Eucharistic community. Christ’s body given to the Christians summoned from them to repeat this action in themselves and to become the Body of Christ.
The Greek Sisters at the Church of the Holy Sepulcre in Jerusalem anoint the very stone upon which the dead Christ was laid as though that body was still there. A beautiful and moving and direct action in which the message to make Christ live in the present is being stated. In similar vein we will ring our church bell this evening at 6 pm to remember the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and express our solidarity with those who seek to bring about necessary change.
The Christian call is both clear and very present and it makes demands upon our sense of what is normal for ourselves and for our communities and for our world. The new normal which Christ establishes in his death and resurrection is the one which continually tests itself for its thoughts and actions. Tests itself too for the lumbering way in which our unconscious human prejudices have been become normalised as the unheeded ‘normal’ of routine existence. The pattern that we have been given in our self-examination, our Christian consciousness is the one in which before all else God has made everyone of us in his image and likeness. Though, through our own weakness we make distinctions and limit God’s love, we know that for God there are no such distinctions, be they ever so fine…The recent death of George Floyd in the middle of this Coronavirus pandemic is a powerful reminder that our world and our outlook onto that world, calls for healing action, calls for the disturbance of complacency, calls for us to examine our routine mind set and to find the words and the actions that bear witness to the ‘God with us’. The playing and replaying of his dying holds a mirror to the world’s conscience. The world of pain and injustice is the ground and place which calls for the healing balm of real social awareness and active compassion. For Christians it is a call to return to turn to Christ who stands for what was once called ‘the healing of the nations’.
The rite for Holy Communion in The Book of Common Prayer placed greatest significance on the reception of the Eucharistic elements. “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul into everlasting life. The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul into everlasting life”. There is an intimate connect between the the life of Christ and our lives and their courses and their ultimate destination. Our relationship to the Christ we proclaim is one which is both spiritual, and of flesh and blood in the here and now:
“Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Crying: ‘What I do is me!’ for that I came
for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of all our faces.”
Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins.
What this means for us is that there is no aspect of human nature for which the self-giving life of Christ does not offer its manifest love. For us moderns we look to Picasso’s painting of the weeping Dora Marr and to his Guernica, and also to the visceral paintings of Francis Bacon. There we find this quality of a humanity which is not benign, nor is it one to which we can ever feel indifference. It is shot with its own powerful significance. It involves us as it weeps and sleeps and hurts and bleeds and worries and depresses and breaks down and laughs and celebrates and wonders and hopes and mourns and dies…. The identification with the Christ who has come to live among us and to make his home with us and to die for us vital to our understanding of the Christ who has come in the flesh. It is what we call his Incarnation. For John this is ‘full of grace and truth’. And we come closest to this fullness of grace and truth in the receiving of Christ in the Eucharist. And in this manner we receive Christ’s body and Blood for our own sanctification.
The Anima Christi (St Ignatius Loyola)
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, overwhelm me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malign enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
To celebrate Corpus Christi (‘The Body of Christ’) is to express what we believe - that the Incarnation reaches into our lives more intimately than we might be comfortable to admit. God does not behold his human creation with disdain, but floods into our lives, loving us back into wholeness. Corpus Christi is an answer to the doubters that this man, Jesus, does indeed give us his flesh to eat because he gives us his word that he will; and, moreover, that it will fill us with life when we open their hearts to receive the Word made flesh.
Christ was the word that spake it.
He took the bread and break it;
And what his words did make it
That I believe and take it.
(Reputedly spoken by Princess Elizabeth when questioned on her beliefs on the Eucharist in Mary's reign)