Discipleship in Difficult Days 16: One Body, in God

The strange circumstances of this year have enabled me to reflect in a way that I had never quite done previously on the threads that draw together Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity and the feast that is widely called ‘Corpus Christi.’

I have been helped particularly by the Common Worship liturgy for Pentecost, which includes some powerful symbolic actions that perhaps speak more loudly when, as recently, they are taking place in one’s own home. At Pentecost, as the Paschal Candle is extinguished, to mark the end of the 50 days of the Easter season, each of us is invited to light our own candle – a visual statement that it is now up to us to follow through the work of Christ and be in our turn ‘lights of the world’ reflecting God’s love. The following week, on Trinity Sunday, we discover that the essential nature of this divine love which we are required to emulate is to hold together diversity and unity. Corpus Christi – as it is widely known in many countries of our diocese – follows swiftly on after Trinity.

Perhaps one way of thinking about the connection is to suggest that Holy Communion, itself speaking of both unity and diversity, constitutes nourishment enabling us to live out the life of the Trinity. I have to confess that the ‘official title of the day in the Common Worship lectionary ‘Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion’ doesn’t quite ‘cut’ it for me… I would rather think of it as a Day of Thanksgiving for the privilege of living out our role as part of the Body of Christ.

As our various contributions, prayer, theological reflection and poetry this week make clear, this fundamental sequence within the Christian year cannot but have implications for our response as individual Christians and as a diocese to the killing of George Floyd. I am especially grateful to my colleagues on the diocesan Ministry Team for their input.

Clare Amos

Director of Lay Discipleship

Clare.amos@europe.anglican.org

mafa supper

 

Prayer for Lives That Matter

God of Abel and Cain, the one who was slain
and the one who denied complicity or responsibility:
visit those who can’t breathe because of the virus
or because of oppression at the hands of another.
Raise up leaders who offer their people vision and hope;

empower any who dwell in the midst of violence
or live in the face of prejudice;
and make your people a rainbow
that promises plenty at the end of the storm.
In the name of Christ, our brown-skinned Lord,
in the power of the Spirit, who speaks in every tongue. Amen.
(Sam Wells, St Martin-in-the-Fields)

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Prayer used at diocesan service for Racial Justice, 12 June 2020

God of justice, in your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception.
Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being.
Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family.
Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviours, and speech which demean others.
Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change. Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history.
And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds,
build bridges, forgive and be forgiven,
and establish peace and equality for all in our communities.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Prayer linked to Romans 8 initially used in national UK ‘Set All Free’ campaign 2007 to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

Abba,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
You have graced us with the spirit of freedom,
And the privilege of calling upon you by name.
May we use this precious freedom
To give a voice to all who are enslaved
By poverty or persecution,
Held captive by discrimination or disease.
Grant us courage to name injustice wherever it appears,
And to speak your Word of truth,
Sure that the love of God in Christ Jesus has power
To set all people free,
Enabling them to live in glorious liberty,
As your cherished sons and daughters. Amen.

.*****

 

Today I will pray…

I am glad to incorporate several more of the powerful prayers written by Paul Wignall, Chaplain in Las Palmas and Director of Reader Training. I have included them in the order that Paul wrote them – so they conclude with his prayer for Corpus Christi, which clearly alludes to current events. To read them sequentially in this way gives them a particular power. Paul’s penultimate prayer was written a week ago, with the Feast of St Boniface in mind. The life of this 8th century saint, who travelled from England to continental Europe to share the Christian gospel, also has wisdom for our current age.

 

Today I will thank God for my dreams –                                                                                            the silent healers of my mind and body as I sleep.                                                                          And I will thank God too for my waking dreams,                                                                           my imagination, my longings and my hopes.                                                                                   As I thank God for making dreams part of life,
I will above all give thanks for dreamers                                                                                          who find a way of making their dreams into reality
and changing the world into a better place.
I ask God to give me the grace to make me one of their company. Amen.

 

Today I will thank God for people with imagination.
I will thank God for those who dream                                                                                               of better worlds and ways of doing things.                                                                                       I will dig deep into myself to find                                                                                                       the foundations on which life is built –
the life we share, the life                                                                                                                       which moves us and makes us.                                                                                                            And I will pray for the courage and humility                                                                                  to be changed by what I find there. Amen.

 

I will pray today for all who speak.                                                                                                     For those who use their voices and find words                                                                                to bring calm and truth, hope and confidence                                                                                 for those who are struggling with life,                                                                                               I will call down God’s blessing.                                                                                                            For those who use words to sow discontent,                                                                                   tell lies or manipulate truth,                                                                                                                I will call down God’s mercy.                                                                                                                And for those who speak for the voiceless,                                                                                      the despairing and the forgotten,                                                                                                        I will call down God’s creative love.                                                                                                    Teach me O Lord, that when I must speak,                                                                          to speak with care. Amen.

 

St Boniface:

Today I will pray for everyone                                                                                                             who is living in a country where they were not born.                                                                   For migrants by choice and for those                                                                                                 escaping destruction, hunger and fear.                                                                                             For young and old together                                                                                                               finding new lives and opportunities.                                                                                                 For those who still endure marginal,                                                                                                 excluded and poverty-stricken lives in their lands of promise.                                                    I pray for generosity between all people.                                                                                          For imagination and curiosity.                                                                                                             But above all I pray that all will be welcomed and feel welcomed. Amen

 

 ‘Corpus Christi’:

I will give thanks today for the presence of Jesus Christ
in the midst of a scared and broken world.
I will give thanks that he stands among us, quietly,
to heal anger and despair, brokenness and loss.
And I will give thanks that he calms my fears
as he shows me his wounded hands and feet,
the marks of torture;
and his eyes smile encouragement to go on,
even in the hardest times. Amen.

 

 

*****

Breaking open the locks

Today is traditionally known as ‘Corpus Christi’ – the feast day of Christ’s Body; a day of thanksgiving for the institution of our common Christian meal, the Eucharist. It started as a city feast, a feast of ordinary people, to celebrate their common life. It was marked by processions, by joy, and by plays – it’s a starting point for the tradition of public theatre across Europe.

Above all it was an affirmation that the common meal of Christians – sharing in bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ – is a wonderful public event, open to all. The Christian meal may have begun among fearful friends in a locked room as a way of healing the pain of the loss of their teacher and master, Jesus. But the fear turned to wonder, joy, hope and new life. It broke open the locks, smashed down the doors, and became a meal to which the whole world was invited.

Over the past weeks it’s been a meal we haven’t really been able to share in the ways we were used to. And now that we can come together once more let’s not forget: it’s not ‘our’ meal, it is for the world. We gather to eat (and soon, I hope, to drink) but not for ourselves alone. It is well said that the eucharist has four actions: taking, breaking, blessing and sharing. We can take and break and bless as much as we like, but unless we also share with the world not only the meal but the freedom and hope it stands for – what we do has very little value. (Paul Wignall)

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‘Bending the knee’

bending the knee

The celebration of ‘Corpus Christi’’, which was inspired by the thought and devotion of St Thomas Aquinas in the mediaeval period, gives the Church a renewed opportunity to remind itself of the origins of our worship and to ‘bow the knee’ or genuflect, in celebration at Our Lord’s presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

This gesture of bowing the knee, which many across the world adopted in the midst of impassioned marches and protests, following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, has a new and powerfully political currency… At Corpus Christi we reflect on the meal which Jesus gave us, which is our ultimate sustenance and our means of calling ourselves the Body of Christ and knowing God’s love.

In the Eucharist, our central act of worship, we bow the knee, in humility, against the oppressive forces in our society and towards the one who took the form of a servant and lived amongst us incarnate. He was not white or European. His ancestry was that of a people who had been oppressed and enslaved. His action at the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday prefigured a renewed flight from the oppression of slavery. The Passover meal which Jesus centres his actions within both at table and on the cross, was the Jewish celebration of the end of slavery, the passing over the Angel of Death, the movement from bondage, out of Egypt and through the Red Sea towards a new and promised land of freedom.

That journey was appropriated and made new in the taking of bread and wine at the Last Supper. Jesus’s Body and Blood, are his and ours. He becomes what we are that we might become what He is. Slavery is ended, oppression is shown for the monster it is, and new life and new hope are ours, now and forever. (William Gulliford)

*****

‘Crucified love’

The Christian concept of the Trinity reveals that God is not the chief commander or the chief avenger – but the crucified love. Not unit, but unity. God is not just personal, but interpersonal God. He is dialogical. Within Him there is a timeless dialogue of infinite and untiring love, and we have been taken up into this dialogue.

roublev trinity

We refer to ourselves as the body of Christ, because we are incorporated in Christ through our baptism. Since we are incorporated in Christ, we are also incorporated in the Holy Trinity. We can imagine ourselves sitting at the table with the three angels and sharing the chalice with them. … The icon of the Hospitality of Abraham (Genesis 18.1-15) by Andrei Rublev is one of the most mesmerizing works of art. As you try to understand how do the angels relate to each other, you get caught up in the dynamic that is going on between them, the circular, even spiral movement of their gestures.

Each angel refers to another, echoes another, but what gives this hypnotizing effect is that their gazes never meet. The first one is watching the second one, but the second one doesn’t look back – he is watching the third one. The third one doesn’t look back, but he is tilting his head. They do not meet each other’s eyes. Their relationship is completely opened.

Why is that? If two would exchange looks, the third one would be left outside, excluded. But their relationship is not exclusive. None of the angels, none of the persons of the Trinity is caught up in binary relation. What the icon tells us is that the nature of the Trinity is to embrace everything, to be opened.

Trinity represents the very idea of the possibility to go out of yourself. Three persons, but there is no domination. There is not one person that usurps all the attention….. There is no play of power… Trinitarian persons are not searching to receive their own reflection back, as we are often tempted to do. We want to see in the other only what is familiar to us, only what we like. We create our own ideal and see this ideal reflected in others. We want to see our own ideas being confirmed. We think that this is our comfort zone, but is it really? Does it make us free? Does it make us happier? Does it make us progress? … (Ksenia Smyk)

*****

Corpus Christi

Love’s feast is come again
this year we celebrate online
the ardent lines
that reach out to infinity;
parameters of love that know no end
and where we are
becomes the place of grace.
(Alan Amos)

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