June 27, 2004

Who controls communion? 1.5

On the two Sundays I've spent at Oxford I've worshipped at two Anglican churches--Christ Church Cathedral and St. Aldates. (Interestingly enough, the churches are physically located across the street from one another.) My experience of God in worship was very similar in each, though they could hardly be more different in style and form. God was very present in the intoned liturgies and choir voices in Latin at Christ Church and in the raised hands and guitars and drums at St. Aldates. But where my experience of the two was most similar was in the Eucharist.

Coming from a tradition in which the elements of the Eucharist are passed, I find myself particularly moved each time I have to come forward to receive them. It reminds me that, on a very fundamental level, the answer to "Who controls communion?" is me. "Take and eat," Jesus says, "this is my body." He holds out the gift of bread and cup and invites (commands?) me to take them from him into my own hands, my own mouth, my own body. Unless I reach out to him, open my mouth, swallow, I cannot partake. Unless I stand up and walk to the altar, I cannot receive. I think this is the foundational issue beneath the conversation Chris and Karl are having in the comments to my earlier "Who controls communion?" post. Communion only communicates grace to those who receive it...and "receiving" is not necessarily to be confused with "eating" or "drinking."

(The photo above is a detail from a beautiful painting I saw in the Cathedral of St. Alban in St. Albans last Friday. If I can find the time I'll post a few more photos later today or tomorrow!)

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