The Great Amen
There is so very much in our life of faith that I am eager to share with you. Most of all, and in the first place, I am eager to stir up your faith in the total and unconditional love of God. I am also eager to help you grow in your understanding of the meaning and the power of the Holy Eucharist. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I could not help you to grow in your understanding of the Holy Eucharist, it would mean that I fail you as a minister of the faith. As I say, there is so much to share and there are so few opportunities to share. So I trust you will indulge me that today I will preach not from the readings we have heard, but I will use this time to talk to you about the Holy Eucharist, God’s Gift of Gifts.
Our Prayer Book tells us on page 13 that the Holy Eucharist is our principal act of worship. Without any reservations I believe that presiding at the Holy Eucharist is the most important thing I do for you and with you, and your participation in this principal act of worship is the most important thing you do as Christians. Without reservation I believe that not to understand the meaning and power of the Holy Eucharist is not to understand our faith, or our salvation, or our life in the Spirit, or who we are or what our lives are supposed to be about.
A very helpful way to get at the meaning and power of the Holy Eucharist is to pose this question. What is the most important part in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist, or what makes the Holy Eucharist the Holy Eucharist? It is not the readings from the Bible. It is not the sermon. It is not the Creed. A very popular answer to the question would be that the most important part in the Holy Eucharist is the words, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”. Not so. Another popular answer would be that the most important part is receiving Holy Communion. Not so. The Holy Eucharist is first of all worship, and secondarily spiritual nourishment.
Let us also understand that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is not a re-enactment of the Last Supper, although we do have the impression that is what it is because of the way the priest acts at the altar. Let’s understand that when Jesus said the words “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”, he was saying these words to the disciples gathered at the table. When I say these words, as every priest should do when he says these words, I am not saying them to you gathered at this table, nor am I looking at you, as if I were re-enacting our Lord’s action. These words are in what we call the Eucharistic Prayer, and I am saying these words in this prayer to God the Father and looking to heaven.
The most important part of the Holy Eucharist, what makes the Holy Eucharist the Holy Eucharist, is you, the people gathered at the table. The most important part is our act of offering. And what do we offer to God?
What happens when we are gathered here to celebrate the Holy Eucharist is a Divine Mystery. What happens is this. The whole Jesus Story becomes present here and now, or better, we are in the presence of the whole Jesus Story. His birth, his home in Nazareth, his teaching in the towns and on the hillsides and in the temple, his compassion, his inspiration, his arrest and mockery, his agony and death, his resurrection to glory, his self-giving, his whole life and all his love, are present, or better we are present to all of that Story here and now. In the Holy Eucharist we are no longer limited by time and space, as God is not limited by time and space. For God all is now. All is present. In the Holy Eucharist we are in God’s now; we are in God’s eternal present. In the Holy Eucharist as it is for God, so it is for us, two thousand years ago is here and now. It is as if we are there in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, in Judea and Galilee, in Jerusalem, on Calvary, and rejoicing in the Risen Lord with the disciples. We are here and now, AND we are there and then. Jesus, living, suffering, dying and rising, there and then, AND Jesus, living, suffering, dying and rising, here and now. Jesus’ perfect life and total and unconditional love are present to us, or better we are in its presence. The Bread and Wine are the signs that Jesus is really and truly present, that Jesus’ whole story is present, that all that he was and all that he is are present, or better that we are present to all of that.
In the Holy Eucharist, God invites us, gathered at this table, to unite ourselves to the whole Jesus Story, to unite ourselves to Jesus’ life and love. His life and love were his perfect worship. His life and love were for us, his life and love are for us, and in the Holy Eucharist together we offer to the Father the whole Jesus Story, Jesus’ life and love as our perfect worship. In the Holy Eucharist Jesus’ perfect adoration and praise become our adoration and praise; Jesus’ perfect thanksgiving become our thanksgiving; Jesus’ perfect satisfaction for unlove becomes our repentance; Jesus perfect petition becomes our petition for all our needs and for all our hopes.
The most important part of the Holy Eucharist, what makes the Holy Eucharist the Holy Eucharist, is you the people gathered at the table. The most important part is that together we offer Jesus and the whole Jesus Story to God. There is a moment in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist when we express that we are here together to offer Jesus’ worship as our worship. In a sense this moment is the most important part in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Here it is. We conclude the Eucharistic Prayer, “Through him and with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory are yours, Almighty Father, now and forever.” And then THE moment. AMEN, we sing. The GREAT AMEN. God invites us to believe that the whole Jesus story was and is for us, was and is for the whole of creation, and we sing AMEN. Yes, we believe. Yes we acknowledge what the Jesus story means to us and to all creation. AMEN. Thank you, God of love and power. Thank you, Jesus, Lord and Savior. Thank you. AMEN. Thank you that you make Jesus’ story our story and we commit ourselves here and now again to live our Thank you. AMEN. This is what the word “eucharist” means. “Thank you”.
Without our act of offering, and indeed without our AMEN, there is no Holy Eucharist. Without our offering,without our AMEN, there is no worship. Our uniting ourselves to the whole Jesus Story and offering the Jesus Story as our worship, our Amen, makes the Holy Eucharist the Holy Eucharist. I bow. I bow in the presence of Jesus the Christ and his story. I hold up the Bread and Wine, the signs of the presence of Jesus and his story, and what it means to us and to all the world. And together we sing AMEN.
Then these words to say, to highlight, what we are doing, “And now with Jesus the Christ present among us, everything he was and everything he is, together we offer his life and his love to the Father, as our perfect worship, and we say “Our Father”.”
Let us understand that one Holy Eucharist is more powerful than all the worship and prayer that have ever been offered or ever will be offered because the Holy Eucharist is the worship and prayer of Jesus himself.
And then we receive the Bread and Wine and Jesus touches us personally, and by his touch he stirs up the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and we are forgiven and healed and enlightened and strengthened; we are slowly but surely transformed in Jesus the Christ, so that we can live our Thank you and become everything we should be for ourselves, for others and for the world.
How many people are here this morning? My friends. In each and every Holy Eucharist we are one with all who celebrate the Holy Eucharist today, and with all those who celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the last twenty centuries, and with those who will celebrate the Holy Eucharist tomorrow and tomorrow and into the future. We are one with all the angels and saints. How many are here today? Whether we can count, even only one or two, in every Holy Eucharist there is present always the countless throng, living and dead and yet to come.
The Holy Eucharist is the most important thing we do together. The Holy Eucharist is our greatest privilege and our greatest joy. May God grant us the grace to celebrate each and every Holy Eucharist as if it were our first Eucharist, as if it were our last Eucharist, as if it were our only Eucharist. Amen.