As we seek to sustain our Easter joy throughout this week (and in fact, throughout the Great Fifty Days of Easter until the Day of Pentecost) this is our prayer for this morning: “O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.” Amen.
This Collect reminds us that one of the ways the Risen Christ was made known to his disciples, and continues to be made known to us, is through the Eucharist. Table fellowship was a big part of Jesus’ common life with his disciples. He shared bread with outcast and sinner and with scribe and Pharisee during his earthly life. The common meal reached its zenith in that Last Supper (likely a Passover meal) when he identified the broken bread with his body and the poured out wine with his blood. He then told them to “do this in remembrance of me.”
No doubt they followed that command faithfully. Because Paul speaks of the Eucharist in great detail in his letters to the Corinthians and elsewhere. Luke tells of the Walk to Emmaus where Cleopas and his companion (his wife?) experience the Risen Christ and are quoted as saying, “Were not our hearts burning within us on the road when he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) Yes, but not before they had shared a meal with him where he “took, blessed, broke, and gave them bread” to them…just as he had with the Twelve in the upper room the night before he died.
And, of course, seven of the apostles in the Gospel of John have bread and fish with Jesus on the beach in Galilee right after they had gone back to do what they knew best — fishing — as they wrestled with the possibility that all this had been for naught and that his mission (and theirs) was a failure. Once again, he was known to them in the “breaking of the bread.”
There are, of course, all kinds of theories about what “happens” at the Eucharist. Some of those theories have tragically become “church dividing” over the centuries. How that must grieve the heart of God! Perhaps we “understand it best” when we approach the Eucharist guided by these words attributed to Thomas Aquinas and later paraphrased by Elizabeth I.
“Taste and touch and vision to discern thee fail; faith that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil. I believe whate’er the Son of God hath told; what the Truth has spoken, that for truth I hold.” (Hymnal 1979 #314)
Alleluia. Christ is Risen. Therefore, let us keep the feast!