We are now coming to the end of our catechesis on Sunday worship at St. John’s. As Anglicans we use the Book of Common Prayer. We have looked at the service of the Holy Eucharist as it is laid out in our Prayer Book worship from the opening hymn to the closing dismissal. Our worship draws us into the greatest mystery we will ever know. Eternity breaks into our busy lives with the Holy Spirit who is the very source of love.
After administering holy Communion to the faithful, as the Altar is cleared by the chalice-bearers, the celebrant sits quietly to pray and reflect on his participation in this profound mystery. Jesus Christ consecrated the bread and wine to become His body and blood through the simple gestures and words of the priest. Through his priesthood grace has now entered the souls of many because of the apostolic ministry he was ordained to. After all the sacred vessels are cleansed and removed from the Altar the celebrant returns to the Altar and begins a final prayer of thanksgiving.
The people join him, “Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank Thee, for that Thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these Holy Mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of Thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of Thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of Thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of Thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of His most precious death and passion. And we humbly beseech Thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with Thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as Thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.” (BCP, 339)
We are a grateful people. Day by day we seek ways to apply our faith and love for God and for His people. As a grace to carry with us as we go back into our our daily activities the priest provides us with the Pauline blessing, “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen.” (Philippians 4:7 and BCP, 339)
As the final act of worship we are “dismissed” with words that send us now into the world surrounded by God’s peace and His holy angels to labor alongside the Holy Spirit and through our efforts to be faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. (BCP, 366)
At St. John’s when we gather on Sunday morning for worship we join with the angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven. The Christian is never alone! The friendship that surrounds us is made up of all the sinners made saints and who now glorify God in Heaven; and all who die in God’s grace and now undergo deep cleansing that was not possible (for many reasons) during this lifetime. Most people carry unresolved issues to the grave. Yet even at the grave we make our song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Jesus has trampled down death by death and given life to those in the tomb.” (BCP, 483) Healing brings us to wholeness all under the Father’s oversight and we are finally purified by the power of His love!
Jesus “finished” the work He came to do. (Mark 1:35-39) But our work continues. (Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 2:41-42) Jesus opened the door for us. (John 10) But as we step through it He steps through with us. He challenges us to grow our faith by prodding us to bend the knee to grace and truth. (Luke 24:13-35, John 14) He is with us so we can follow Him. (John 14:15-17)
Jesus laid down the Cross at the finish, but we must take it up, “Then He said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) He has finished salvation, but we have not yet fully applied it to our own soul and the souls of billions plus more. Jesus healed the human body… but we must live in it. He has finished sowing the seed, so now we must reap the harvest. (Matthew 13 and Luke 10:1-12) He has finished filling the paten and chalice, but we have not finished eating and drinking from it. (Matthew 20:20-28) He has planted the wheat field; we must gather it into our barns. (Ephesians 1:9-12) He has finished the Sacrifice of Calvary; we must begin our every week with the Mass.
The great events of our Lord’s life culminating in His passion and crucifixion are not meant to be only an inspirational drama we read about or a story we tell, rather it is the very stuff we are to model our lives upon. We are not meant to passively watch and play by imagination alone the Cross as something done and ended like the life of someone special! What was done on Calvary through the empty tomb is available to anyone but only in the degree that they are baptized into this living mystery and then repeat it in their own lives. The Mass is received to be lived!
Now, go in peace to love and serve the Lord! Amen