Images de page

designation at first."1 There are good reasons for supposing that S. Paul is speaking of it under this name, both in his first letter to the Corinthians, "How shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks," and in his first letter to S. Timothy, "I exhort that giving of thanks be made for all men;" and the evidence from the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles" makes it quite clear that it was a title of the Sacrament as early as "the last quarter of the first century."4 From that time it "became so common and attractive, that it was adopted into other languages, both Latins and Syrians using it in an untranslated form."

[ocr errors]

Enough has been said to justify our taking the two thoughts which the words Eucharist and Communion embody as expressing the leading features in our Liturgy. We shall now consider their meaning.

The First Celebration a Thanksgiving for the Redemption of the World.-All the accounts of that first Celebration record the fact that, before He brake the bread, our LORD gave thanks. 5 Amidst the gloom cast over the disciples by the announcement of betrayal and imminent death, I Luckock, "The Divine Liturgy," p. 27. 21 Cor. xiv. 16. 4" The Divine Liturgy," p. 29.

31 S. Tim. ii. 1.

5 S. Matthew and S. Mark use the phrase "He blessed" in connection with the breaking of the bread, but this practically means the same thing. (Cf. Alford. S. Matt. xxvi. 26.)



one Voice was heard thanking the Father. On that "" darkest day the world can ever see, with foes about and treachery within, in bitter loneliness of spirit, under the dreadful shadow of death, Jesus, our Master, held fast the red chord of praise and gladness, and in the very night of the betrayal, though His soul grew troubled and His heart shuddered, He took bread and lifted up His eyes to Heaven and gave thanks." But let us note that the thanksgiving is joined to offering. It was not of the character of a "grace before meals; that had been spoken at the beginning of the feast. This is bound up with the words, "This is My Body which is given for you." It is again repeated before the words, This is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." It is sacrificial thanksgiving. We see the High Priest of Humanity already lifting up that great Sacrifice which is to redeem the world, and rejoicing so to do. This is the leading feature of the new rite. Quite independently of all that may be urged for the phrase, “Do this," as for the word anamnesis," which an unprejudiced commentator says has "a sacrificial

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 H. S. Holland, "Creed and Character," p. 305.

2 Edersheim, "The Temple: its Ministry and Services," p. 204. 3 S. Luke xxii. 19. 4 S. Matt. xxvi. 28.

Plumptre, Comm. on S. Matt. xxvi. 26.

aspect of its own," and for the word "covenant," so closely associated with sacrifice, the whole action, as depicted in those few lines which describe the first Celebration, is charged with offering and thanksgiving. So clearly does this appear to be the case that the act of communion seems-we speak with all reverence to be subordinate to this great end. It is the means by which the disciples may be enabled to do what He is doing. It is the strength by which they may rise to that same sublime height of thanksgiving, by which they, when giving up all that is most dear to man,-honour, home, friends, and life,—may learn to thank GOD.


Its Connection with the Passover.- But, further, the Passover, out of which it sprang, was a great thanksgiving, and being this, the first Eucharist was as naturally connected with the past as it was with the future. There can be no question that "thank-offering" was the central feature of that service which Dr. Edersheim rightly says, "our LORD transformed into the LORD'S Supper." No one can read his stirring account of that festival, with its bursts of Alleluias, whilst the blood of the Paschal lambs was cast by the priest in one jet at the base of the altar, without feeling some concern that our service, which commemorates the redemption of a world, should awaken less enthusiasm than that

1 Edersheim, "The Temple: its Ministry and Services,” p. 200.

which celebrated the redemption of a nation. In the Passover, too, there was the Communion. The great thanksgiving in the temple, in which the representative of the families alone joined, was brought home to the youngest members by the solemn participation in the sacrificed lamb, and by the Psalms and Alleluias which formed so large a part of the home devotions. What a flood of light this old festival throws on the new! We understand to what our LORD was bidding His disciples when He said, "Do this." He was putting a new form of thanksgiving in place of an old, substituting a world-Eucharist for a national thanksgiving. Its destiny from the very first was to be universal. Instead of being limited to a nation or a definite place, this new sacrificial worship may take place anywhere; instead of the lamb that on some occasions could not be obtained, bread, wine, and the living Church are all that are necessary. Gradually it will overspread the whole earth and fill every space of time. Even now there is no race without it, as there is probably no hour of the day when its voice is silent. And so we are moving on towards that great fulfilment, a sketch of which is given in the fifth chapter of Revelation. The Church above is with us. Our cold, feeble, scantily attended Eucharists are part of that ceaseless Intercession and Self-oblation of the Lamb standing in the midst

[ocr errors]

of the throne as it had been slain," which alone gives them dignity and worth. By His Presence and Virtue we are lifted up to the heavenly places "where the choirs of angels and redeemed sing more perfectly the triumph song of the Lamb." With angels and archangels, and with all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify the glorious name of GOD, for the whole earth is full of His glory.

This view of the Eucharist an uplifting one.—It is only a faulty conception of thanksgiving that leads to a feeling of disappointment on learning that Eucharist is the purpose of Communion, and not Communion the object of Eucharist. For the education in thanksgiving is the very end of life. When we have attained the height to which our LORD points, we may then say, so far as our own life is concerned, “It is finished." Thanksgiving is the highest expression of faith and love. It is such a realization of GOD's love to us as makes us ready for any enterprise to which He may call us, however desperate. It is no mere lip service or transient emotion caused by the sense of some recent mercy, but a deep, eternal, abiding, unshakable possession, founded on the great facts of creation, redemption, means of grace, and hope of future glory, which

1 Rev. v. 6.

« PrécédentContinuer »