15 Sep spiritual hunger
Last month two seminarians from Virginia Episcopal Seminary made a special journey from Alexandria VA to Wilmington DE. The reason? To attend a service of the Holy Eucharist at Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Wilmington. It turns out the Diocese of Virginia had forbidden all forms of public worship, even within the seminary. For the two seminarians, hungry to receive the sacrament, the only recourse was make the four hour return journey from Virginia to Delaware and back.
I could personally relate to their need to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist. Before ordination I worked in London, England, and at lunchtimes would visit the nearby church to receive communion. The celebrant knew some of us were office workers on their lunch-break, and so the whole service was usually over in about twenty minutes. I then returned to work, having received my “daily bread.”
I had a friend who once told me that in all of his 75 years, he had missed going to church on Sunday on only four occasions; when he told me, there was a look of sadness in his face at having missed those four times. It meant that much to him.
When we attend a service of the Eucharist, we are following the command of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me.” It is a gift from God which we receive with gratitude and love. In the Book of Common Prayer, it says that “the inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith.” The hunger for God in Word and Sacrament was eloquently expressed by the 6th century monk St Columbanus, who wrote:
“The Lord himself, our God Jesus Christ, is the fountain of life…observe whence that fountain flows; it flows from that place whence also the bread came down; he is the same who is bread and fountain, the only Son, our God Christ the Lord, for whom we should ever hunger.”
For all who are hungry to receive holy communion, our church doors will be open again on Sunday, September 13 at 9 am for a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. For some, it will be six months since they were last able to receive communion. That’s longer than any of us anticipated at the time, but due to the restrictions Covid-19 has placed on us, we have had to play a waiting game. And for many, that waiting game will continue, at least until there is a vaccine.
To those thinking of coming tomorrow – welcome back! To those choosing to remain at home – we miss you! Whether at church or at home, we are one people, called by God into a communion of love. If you are one of those planning to stay at home – and that will be most of you – here is a beautiful prayer sent to me recently by one of our members; the prayer is included in the liturgy of the Washington National Cathedral. It conveys something of the hunger and longing which separation from our church brings.
“My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul. Since I cannot receive you in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me, in this life and in the life to come. Amen. “