“This is my body”
“He was the Word, that spake it:
He took the bread and brake it;
And what that Word did make it,
I do believe and take it.”
- John Donne, Divine Poems – On the Sacrament.
In the Holy Eucharist we are not only remembering something, but we are in a very real way participating in it. It is no mere symbol. The very real thing that we are participating in is a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven.
We are recognizing God as the source of our very being. Our very being is a free gift from God who brought everything into being out of His love. It is then in profound gratitude for this unmerited favor from God that we offer ourselves, along with the gifts, back to Him and thus participate in this foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven, uniting our voices with those of the angels of heaven giving our thanks and praise to our Creator as is His due. In doing so all of us respond to God in the manner He intended when He created us. We are united in thanksgiving, praise and communion with our God, and all of this is accomplished through the grace of the Holy Spirit who is drawing us toward the Father through the Son.
In our offering of praise, the remembering to God of all that Christ has done for us is our sacrifice to God. We have nothing of ourselves to offer, for He has done it all. Even the bread and wine we offer are not really ours but His, the Creator’s. He caused the grain to ripen and the grapes to grow on their vine. After we have done all we can to serve Him, after we have done all we can to purify our passions and seek Him, still we are only able to approach him as debtors, offering nothing of our own save only our gratitude and praise for His acts in the past and in the future. But it is that that is our calling. Our calling and purpose is to praise, honor, bless and adore our Creator.
The Holy Spirit is called down by the priest not only upon the bread and the wine (though surely that) but also on His people. We receive the gifts transformed into the precious Body and Blood of Christ for the purification and transformation of our souls. The priest in invoking the Holy Spirit, is inviting Him down on us so that we can receive these transformed gifts and be ourselves transformed, and with us all of creation.
All of this is just a hint of the communion that we will one day have with God and with each other in God’s kingdom. In fact, it is a taste now of the participation we have now, as well as a hint of the fuller participation we hope to have in the age to come.