As discussed in the last post of this series, our meeting for the Eucharist is where we begin to comprehend the gift of Christian identity. This gift is made possible, in part, by yet another gift from God: the gift of time.
The Lord’s Supper is a meal we share with our Lord and each other that requires preparation and distribution. The meal is shared at a particular time and a particular place because the fruits of the earth, in the forms of wine and bread, must be gathered and the table prepared by those to whom we entrust this responsibility. Our commitment to share this meal is our way of being intentional about noticing that Eternity breaks into our lives by interrupting the cadences of secular time in order to give our lives the depth and meaning that God has always intended for us.
We are known as a people whose lives are centered by the regularity of our gathering. Our sense of time is not centered by a climatological calendar, an academic calendar, or by a fiscal calendar, but by the regularity of our gathering for the Lord’s Supper. On the Christian weekly calendar, the meaning of all the other days of the week is derived from their relation to the Lord’s Day: they are either the three days immediately following our latest celebration or the three days in which we are anticipating our next celebration.
Each celebration at the Lord’s Table recalls the last and anticipates the next, while at the same time recalling the Exodus and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and anticipating the promised time when we will join in the feast at the fulfillment of time. Each gathering at the Table locates us in our time and across time, centering our lives in the grand drama of our common life with God.
Several days in the Church year are of particular importance. On those days, we celebrate important events in the history of salvation - especially the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These are holy days for us. All the weeks in the Church year find their meaning through their relationship to the dates of these pivotal events. Thus we may speak of a particular week as three weeks before our celebration of Jesus’ birth, two weeks before our feast that celebrates his resurrection, or ten weeks after our feast that marks his sending of the Holy Spirit. And each calendar year is known by its relation to the year in which Jesus was born.
Thus, in our gathering together at the Lord’s Table, we receive the gift of time that constitutes, in part, our identity as children of God. This gift of time is the rest for which all humans yearn, and so it is that participation in the Eternal that is true peace and joy. The only appropriate response to our recognition and recollection of this peace and joy that we are given is praise, and, as you might suspect, there is special meaning in the way we do that, too. We will dig into that subject in the next post in this series.
In drafting this article, I am indebted to one of the many mentors with whom I have been blessed: Sam Wells, Dean of Duke Chapel and Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University. See Wells, Samuel. God's Companions : Reimagining Christian Ethics. Challenges in Contemporary Theology, Malden, MA ; Oxford: Blackwell Pub, 2006
Mon, January 10, 2011
by Fr Craig David Uffman filed under