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A Monthly Journal of historic Christianity
Edited by the Rev. E. G. Selwyn, M.A., REDHILL RECTORY, HAVANT,
to whom all editorial matters should be addressed.
EDITORIAL The New Year dawns on a world where hope grows more robust than heretofore. It is not of the kind we call optimism, but that soberer sentiment which blesses the effort to see truly and to do right. Even if disappointed, wholly or in part, by the event, it is not therefore fickle; for it involves an experience of guidance and direction which abides. We see in the statesmanship of the agreements over Ireland and the Pacific an answer to the prayers of the Church; and with thanksgiving we go forward to the future.
In the Church, too, we see much cause for the same kind of hope. English people take a long time to adjust themselves to a new order of things; but already the Parochial Church Councils are awakening among the laity fresh interest and sense of responsibility, and by consequence a fresh desire for knowledge. The National Assembly has been criticized for debating instead of legislating. Apart from the fact that debate is the approved method of legislating in this country, it is serving an invaluable educational purpose; and the space now devoted in the Press—both in London and in the provinces—
— to Church affairs is a sign that the public want to know what we mean. Even the temporary distress of the Central Church Fund has its brighter side; for in parish after parish local effort is being made, and successfully made, to deal with the most urgent of all financial problems—the maintenance of the clergy. THE IDEA OF THE EUCHARIST
A body hast thou prepared me. It is mere sentimentalism to repeat the words of institution at the consecration of the Sacred Elements, especially the words, “ This is My Body,” “ This is My Blood, unless He who spoke them was God. The faith of Catholic Christendom is that God took a real human body and a real human mind, that in and through them He might bring the Divine Will into effective expression in the world of men; and that, as He used the material particles of the Body which was born of Mary in order that men might be brought into fellowship with God, so He uses the consecrated Host and the consecrated Wine to serve His Will and to be a channel by which He comes to succour and sustain His friends. These become, in that sense at least, His Body and His Blood.
“In that sense at least "; the words, “ This is My Body," are in some sense non-literal, and must be so interpreted. That does not mean that they do not describe a reality, but that this reality belongs to the spiritual world, the world of faith, of the ideal, the world of values; the world of poetry rather than of prose; of meaning rather than of mere fact; of drama rather than of science. But just for that reason we must be careful not to put any easy, fanciful interpretation of our own on those words of our Lord's. They are His words, not ours. And the men who first heard them could have had no conception of a symbol which was not in some sense the reality it expressed; they were spiritual realists who knew nothing of “mere symbols,”* and from that day to this orthodox Christians have understood His words “ without any allegory or metaphor or trope or figure.”+ And yet the world is still waiting for an adequate explanation of the infinite wealth of meaning implied in those blessed words, “This is My Body."
The New Testament understands the Body of Jesus Christ in a threefold sense. First, there is the Body that was born of Mary, that men saw and touched in Galilee and Judæa, that was hungry and thirsty and tired, that touched the blind and the leper to heal them, that was scourged and crucified, that was dead and buried, that rose again a spiritual body (in St. Paul's phrase), triumphing over death and the grave. Then there is the less literal usage by which the Pauline letters call the Church Christ's Body. Ye are the Body of Christ,” the
* Loisy, op. cit., p. 226.
† Tun ull, Concerning the Reality of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (1551).
Apostle says to the Corinthians, “ and each of you is one of His organs;" and the Ephesian letter describes the Church as
His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” This metaphor has become naturalized in Christian speech, and has been a commonplace of theology from that day to this. Then, thirdly, there is the application of the phrase to the Blessed Sacrament. The bread which we break," asks St. Paul, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ?” It surely does not need argument that if we are to begin to understand what our Lord meant when, at the Holy Supper, He said, “ This is My Body," we must first ask what is meant by saying that the Flesh which He took from the Virgin Mary
His Body”; and then what is meant by calling the Church “ the Body of Christ," and applying what
we have so learnt of the meaning of “ the Body” to the Holy Eucharist.
First, then, Christ's natural body was the link between Him and the human race. He took our nature upon Him. He, God from all eternity, became Man. And the means, the instrument, the expression of His membership of the race, His oneness with mankind, was His real human body. In and through His body that mysterious influence of humanity which we call “ heredity” touched Him; He was the Son of David. All the human and material influences which make up man's environment, the appeal of education to the eye and the ear, the influence of food and sleep and climate and work and weariness on thought and emotion-His body was the link and channel and opportunity for all these. And it was His limitation and opportunity among all these. His limitation, as perhaps our bodies limit us. When we say that His earthly ministry was confined to an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire, that He saw the world through the eyes of a Jew of the first century of our era, it is of the body and its limitations that we are thinking. But the body was His opportunity also, His opportunity to make His love concrete and particular and visible; for He could only save and uplift the human race, not from outside but from within; He could only make the eternal sacrifice of the life of God a dynamic ideal in human evolution by coming down from heaven and becoming incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and being made man. Without a body, a person cannot work in this world. If a man, for example, wished to bring about any change in the government of the country, he could only begin to do it by using his body: his hands to write letters and pamphlets and articles; his tongue to speak; his feet to walk from one influential person to another; his brain to plan and co-ordinate and choose means for his ends. That is what Christ's natural body was. It was His instrument for effecting