22 October 2009

Eucharist, E-U-C-H-A-R-I-S-T.

Younger is going to be receiving her first Holy Communion come the spring this year, (prayer request, please) and we have begun teaching according to the materials put out by the diocese. Right there, on the first page, was the first reference to Communion, which was referred to as "the Bread of Life."

I understand the validity of calling the Eucharist the 'Bread of Life'. It is an old, common way of referring to the Eucharist. Possibly the most famous communion hymn, Panis Angelicus, written by Thomas Aquinas himself, refers to it as bread. So I don't have a problem with calling it Bread as such, as long as its supernatural reality is stressed over the physical. My issue is that sometimes the 'bread' motif gets too much stress and shunts aside the idea that what we are partaking of is the Body and Blood of Christ.

Am I too sensitive? Perhaps. But I have heard people refer to the Eucharist as "blessed bread", yea, even from the pulpit, too many times. Any bread can be blessed. I can bless bread, for crying out loud. What we have in the Eucharist is something else.

And yet I see the 'bread' idea pushed around so very much. It was part of the reason I quit my old choir: I was sick of our six or seven communion hymns, most of which emphasised bread. The exception was when we sang "Christians let us love one another," which shifted the emphasis from the Eucharist completely to our neighbours. But the other hymns, like 'Bread of Life' or 'Eat this Bread' or 'I am the Living Bread' or 'Our Daily Bread' all stressed bread. Then there's 'Gift of Finest Wheat' which stepped back from bread and went to stress wheat and grapes. And then there's 'Seed, scattered and sown,' which takes another step back: we're not talking about bread and wine, nor wheat and grapes, but seeds and vines. We keep moving backwards. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We go any farther back, we'll be singing hymns about manure.

We crossed out Bread of Life, and wrote in Body of Christ. Her training will begin there.

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