The Sacramental Life

“This sacrament is not a special part of our religion: it is just our religion, sacramentally enacted. It is whatever Christ is, and Christ is everything to Christian men. In particular he is the supreme bond between us”.

Written by Austin Farrer in a book called “The Crown of the Year”, these words are rich food for thought and nourishing food for prayer. Farrer speaks of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ that draws us together as members of our Confraternity: draws us together as members of the Church of God.

“The serious study of theology can be off-putting for some, but I would like to believe that every Christian is a theologian because we are all called to know Jesus Christ and to proclaim Jesus Christ. Each of us has something fresh, new and unique to say.

“Don’t be frightened to express your Faith, for I also believe that there is a world eager to know what we know for no other reason that they are missing out on something.

“They may not understand (yet) what it is, but that does not stop them wanting it.

“So far removed are they from the experience of religion that they tend to dismiss it, knock it, or are aggressive towards it. By breaking through that fundamental barrier, there is a world of enlightenment to tap and make use of for God. The sacramental life of the Church is the shaping and forming of that spiritual experience.”

Some words of another great English theologian, Archbishop Michael Ramsey: “In the long run (the Eucharist) will be its own interpreter and teacher. For the supreme question is not what we make of the Eucharist but what the Eucharist is making of us”.

On Maundy Thursday we focus on the Institution of the Eucharist in the upper room just before Our Lord’s Passion. Jesus knew what He was doing in that action of taking, blessing, breaking and giving. That fourfold offering continues until the Lord comes again in glory as the action that binds us to Him and binds us together, and we enter into it each time the Mass is celebrated.

The other celebration of the Eucharistic banquet comes with Corpus Christi – Maundy Thursday but with all the frills! Both are pivotal to the life of the Church and the life of each Christian, for we are all members together of the Body of Christ. Rejoice in this intimate relationship with one another and with the Lord. For we proclaim Him not only with our lips but receive Him into our very bodies.

Canon Thomas Thelluson Carter, Founder

Extracts from the sermon preached by the Superior-General at the Centenary (2001) of Carter’s death at St. Andrew’s, Clewer.

“We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Christ, for He is our salvation, our life and our resurrection. Through Him we are saved and made free”. The opening of the daily prayer for priests of the Society of the Holy Cross (and the opening antiphon for the Mass of the Holy Cross Day).

Canon Thomas Thelluson Carter was the founder of CBS (1862). He was also the Master of the Society of the Holy Cross (1876-79) and Rector of Clewer where he founded the Community of Sisters (who have recently moved from their house). He may well have been unique to have held high office in both societies at the same time, such is the esteem and affection with which he was held in the catholic movement of his own day.

It needs to be remembered that the use of the Sacrament of Penance was one of the very reasons for CBS’s coming into being: in an effort to put the catholic Christian in a right relationship with his or her God as they solemnly approached the altar to receive the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood of Christ – something they did a lot less frequently than we are able to today.

The use of the Confessional and the encouragement to come to Mass fasting lie at the very heart of our Confraternity and we have to thank God for Fr. Carter and others like him for this pivotal devotional aspect to out catholic-Anglican Christian living.

How times have changed! Only 150 years ago secrecy surrounded membership and association with such groups as CBS & SSC. These days – who cares? That is the question that comes to mind!

Our forefathers believed in these things with a passion that is almost foreign (or fanatical) to us today – but were they wrong in promoting such things? I think not -just the opposite.

We can regain their zeal, recall their devotion, re-invent ourselves – not necessarily in their image, for times have indeed changed. But we are the poorer spiritually for not lusting after the external truths of our catholic heritage. They are to aid our devotion and express our faithfulness to the Gospel: for should we not be seeking to glory in the cross Our Lord Jesus Christ, not be weighed down by the burden of it, as a millstone round our necks adding to the busyness and cares if this world?

Whilst we can rejoice in that fact that many churches now have the Mass as their main act of Sunday worship, and that the Eucharist has become the primary way many parishes worship, even daily, we must not lose sight of the other main objects of the Confraternity: we rejoice that the Lord’s own Service is the main focus of the Lord’s Own Day, but how much richer it could be if we looked at all our Objects.

Prepare for Sunday Communion (read the readings before hand; pray to the Lord telling him how much you are looking forward to receiving Him). Fast before Mass (do not eat or drink anything one hour before receiving Holy Communion). Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) at least before the major seasonal festivals.

Times have changed: a lot has happened in the last 100 years since he has died. But we are called to preach afresh to each generation and we do that in the work of the CBS since Canon Carter died.

Sacred Space: On this rock I will build…

Many of us bear the burden of responsibility for large, ancient, beautiful church buildings. Much of our time is spent propping them up or raising money to keep them in good repair. Through grant-making bodies, lots of parishes are able to undertake adventurous refurbishment schemes: making our places of worship more (as they say) “user friendly”.

Look at it now: thousands flock to worship at the feet of modern artists and are inspired by the towering spaces. We see this with the development of shopping malls – these days they seem to be the place where people gravitate to on a Sunday: towering spaces of glass and concrete where people worship at the shrine of consumerism.

Supermarket chains have also caught onto the concept. Huge out-of-town stores that have a definite architectural leaning towards the ecclesiastical: cloisters, clock towers, vistas and even spires. No longer is it a supermarket “warehouse” to buy all your shopping under one roof. It is now an experience: something to be inspired by. And more recently, in London, the buildings that surmount the Jubilee Line Underground stations need to be seen to be believed: great edifices with awe inspiring architectural spaces.

This phenomenon could be examined by experts (it probably is) for what it says about our society and where its values lie. We do not criticise this, just observe it and make one fundamental point – the Church did it first! Buildings of majesty and inspiration are important. It is harder (though not impossible) to worship in a blank, square, concrete box: but large spaces where people can “congregate” and look up, out and beyond speak to the very heart of the soul.

We lose a great deal if we see our churches close through lack of care or money. It is a major problem that the Church must face: from simplest non-conformist chapel to grandest basilica. But we must never belittle the power of our places of worship for what they say to those who never (or hardly ever) enter into them.

Their power comes not from what an architect designed on paper, but from the prayer, the daily prayer that brings those stones alive. It is a force for good that a shopping mall or supermarket can never have. As to whether the art gallery can be a tribute to the creative power of the Almighty, the discussion continues!

Recently a priest said of our state of sinfulness (not least the clergy’s) the Church must never withdraw from the inner city, or have “no-go” areas where all seems lost. We need to be there: at the centre of everything that goes on in our communities. We have an abiding Kingdom to announce and through our daily prayer and worship we testify to that. It may seem hard sometimes, but we can never (or rarely) see the fruits of our labours in the vineyard that God has allotted us. But it is tremendous when we do.

“The Church makes the Eucharist”

It is true to say that “the Church makes the Eucharist”. It is one of the main reasons for our existence – to come together, under God, as his faithful people to become what we already are – the Body of Christ. We strive to build Eucharistic communities that are the life-blood of the Church. To these gatherings we always bring our humanity: imperfect but striving to know the will of God and fulfil it.

It is even more true to say that “the Eucharist makes the Church”. For it is only in the life, worship and witness of the Eucharistic community that Christ is revealed and made known to the world – through us. Thus it follows that even taking into account our imperfect humanity, by His own grace, God’s divinity is brought into the life of our Eucharistic celebrations.

Thus, it is an awesome exchange or encounter that is acted out every time the Eucharist is celebrated. People quite often say they don’t “feel” like going to church or that they didn’t “get” anything from going to Mass. I think that this is to miss the point – yes, we bring who we are to Mass each time, but what goes on there is a meeting between heaven and earth, a glimpse of the unending worship of heaven. Sometimes it will uplift us: at other times it will be a duty and we might feel that we have wasted our time. Never! We are always laying the paving stones that allow for us and for others to walk on a more even path to glory. Never diminish the part you have to play in the daily worship of the Church: your presence (or absence!) makes a difference.

Recently a priest said, “Don’t worry about sin – the Church can deal with sin.” How right he was – the Church has the mechanism to deal with our imperfections and shortcomings. We hope and pray that there is a growing use of that important Ministry of Reconciliation and healing. But following on from that, what is wrong is that people cannot cope with their own sin. Always the Church’s work must be to nurture people into the knowledge that there is a Saviour who doesn’t condemn, but looks for signs of faith, signs of perseverance, signs of hope. Within the Eucharistic community our sin is dealt with, and we must strive to assure people that their own feelings of unworthiness are embraced by a loving, forgiving God.