Sunday, 12 July 2015

On Communion

Come, enter in, approach the wine and bread.
This is no mere remembrance of one who lies long dead.
This is an invitation from one whose words all said:
Come, enter in.

Come, enter in, lay down your nagging fear.
Your burdens may be lifted, your sins forgiven here.
This table is a still point in all the changing year:
Come, enter in.

Come, enter in, though not with hate possessed -
You need to ask forgiveness from those you have distressed.
A blessing must be given if you would now be blessed:
Come, enter in.

Come, enter in, lift up your eyes again.
Remember him who lived and died, compassion masking pain,
And view him now in heaven, where he shall always reign:
Come, enter in.

Come, enter in, receive the bread and wine.
Drink deep, eat well, and understand the sign -
For in this holy sacrament God's grace will always shine:
Come, enter in.


This is an old poem.  I wrote it almost ten years ago, arising out of a prayer meeting at my church in Bristol, but it still runs through my head from time to time.  It came into my mind again today as we took communion at our current church - a rather free-for-all affair at the best of times, and more so when your toddler is trying to stick his fingers into the juice and your preschooler is whining that he's still hungry and wants more bread.  I was struggling to find any sense of holiness in all of that!

Communion is an oddity in our religion.  A "meal" that has been so ritualised as to be even less than a snack.  A spiritual - and in some strange way, even physical - link to the one we hail as Lord.  It can be as simple as crackers and juice shared with friends, and as ornate as a full bells-and-smells Catholic Mass.  Very few of the ways we celebrate it now probably bear any resemblance to the original meal Jesus ate with his disciples; and yet all of them look back to that day just before he died.  Some traditions observe communion daily; some weekly or monthly; some question the validity of observing it at all.  But as far as we can tell, it has been something that has united Christians since the earliest of times: breaking bread together to "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes".

Left to myself, I would be firmly Anglico-Baptist in my observance.  If having an ideal communion is not too sacrilegious, mine would consist of some well-chosen opening words - possibly, but not limited to, the Anglican communion rite, with its ringing call and response, "Lift up your hearts!  We lift them to the Lord."  There would then follow a reverent silence, broken only by the murmurs of, "The body of Christ, broken for you," and, "The blood of Christ, shed for you," as the bread and wine are passed from neighbour to neighbour.  There would be time to reflect and pray individually before we moved on with a corporate prayer or song, bringing all our private prayers back into one act of worship.

Life intervenes.  My reverent silences are more likely to be broken by cries of, "Mum, I need a wee!", and the blood of Christ in its representative form will probably be shed all over my shirt as I juggle a wiggling baby.  But the poem above still expresses my understanding of the ideas and intentions behind communion, and is still a valuable reminder of what we do, and what Jesus does, whenever we come to his table.  The ideal celebration of it may happen far too rarely, but the ideal consecration within it is still there.  Every time.

Come, enter in.

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