OF THE BREAD
When the psalmist sang ‘You spread a table before me’ he meant the landscape, the good earth where he was shepherd to his flocks and had the yield—as Hosea said—of ‘corn and wine and oil’.
His words are true of every Christian sanctuary where there will be a ‘table’ for the celebration in ‘bread and wine’ of Holy Communion, the ‘eucharist’ or thanksgiving. The altar may be simple almost like a kitchen table or it may be a great throne-like edifice crowning a flow of steps. Either way, it will be the focal point of worship between a lectern for Scripture reading and a pulpit for ‘ministry of the Word’.
This ‘table spread’ earth-wise and place-wise has a ‘president’ who on behalf of all repeats the four manual acts of Jesus at ‘the Last Supper’, when, as the Gospels say: ‘We took and blessed and break and gave.’ The simple act of consecration leads to distribution. We are back again ‘in the night in which he was betrayed’ and summoned to know ourselves redeemed in the love that suffered, and to understand the costly mystery of divine grace. ‘Make this your own’ was his invitation then; it stays so for us now.
In that imagery of veritable history are two other meanings. There is the intimate parable of faith present in the act of ‘eating and drinking’, taking ‘very truth’ to our ‘very selves’ as guests in a divine hospitality. Such faith, in this context knows that ‘there are many with me.’ This is ‘communion’ where we are never solitary.
‘Took, blessed, break, gave’ belong in one with faith as history, theology, liturgy and ministry where the four acts of Jesus translate into a fourfold recruiting of the Christian. This union of creed and life and sacrament is the study of the chapters here. Given that Ma’idah or ‘table’ in the Qur’an (Surah 5) there is a Muslim aspect partly to share the Christian sacrament of nature and of grace. What manner of guests are we?
Kenneth Cragg read English and American History as an undergraduate at Jesus College, Oxford, but history fired an incentive for literature which, with philosophy, he taught at the American University of Beirut, and later in the inter-disciplinary system of Sussex.
These interests were seasoned by experience as Chaplain in Beirut and Bishop within the Anglican Jurisdiction in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
138 x 216mm, 278 pages, hardback
ISBN 978 1 901764 58 1