Just as crucial as the concept of substance to our account of the eucharist is the concept of persons. With this concept we can understand that we are both distinct and particular persons, and that that we are in communion with one another and not threatened by it. The theology of the ‘Whole Christ’ is a theology of persons in communion and thus a theology of the Church, this specific communion of sanctified persons. With his account of the ‘Whole Christ’, Augustine is the great exponent of this theology of persons in communion with God. What does Augustine mean by the ‘Whole Christ’?
4 Maundy Thursday Having given all things into his hands…
Exodus 12, 1 Corinthians 11, John 13
1. Upper Room
The readings for today, Maundy Thursday, are from Exodus 12, the Passover, 1 Corinthians 11, the Lord’s instruction to break read in his name until he comes, and from John 13. On Maundy Thursday the clergy of the diocese gather with the bishop to receive the oil of chrism that they will use for the coming year.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13
Jesus Christ is free, for God is free. He is so free, he is free even to do the things that we most associate with loss of freedom. Our Lord did not regard divinity as something that has to be clung on to, but taking the inconspicuous form of a servant, made himself nothing (Philippians 2).
This servant-status, this priestly deaconate, is for those who in Christ have had ‘all things given into their hands’. This weight of glory is yours. It releases you. Now you do not need to busy yourself first with your own affairs before turning with whatever energy you have left, to help others. You do not need to look for glory or confirmation, for you have it, and need never concern yourself about it again. You have been released from concern about your own identity.
You have been forgiven. Just as your life is no longer yours to live alone, so your problems and your sin is not your own any longer. You are free to seek more and more of that forgiveness, and to do so with greater and great abandon, more and more publicly. You are free to confess your sins and to lead the rest of us in letting go of our own sins. You may be the most care-free of people.
This means that you are free – for others. You are servants, deacons, waiters-at-table, fetchers and carriers. You will wait at hospital beds, anoint the dying, find words of comfort for the frightened and anguished. You will baptize and teach, you will hear confession, you will marry and bury. You will explain the inexplicable to the baffled, the bored and resentful.
3 Wednesday After receiving the bread…
Isaiah 50, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12, John 13.21-32
We have been following the readings for each of the days of Holy Week. We said that every day of Holy Week is a revealing of the risen Son of God. The passion is the unfurling of the resurrection, and the resurrection is our glimpse of the ascent of man to God. On Monday we said that all creation is filled with glory of God. This glory does not impose itself on us, but one sign of it is the presence of the Christian people. They are here to pray for the world and to speak back on its behalf to God; together they make up the Church, the house that is filled with the glory of God.
Yesterday we said that the Son of God has entered the creation. He has handed himself over to us. He has been dropped into the earth like a single seed, and we are there soil he has been dropped into. What will we make of him? Will this seed survive our handling, will it germinate and produce a crop and a harvest?
Today, we hear again from the Gospel of John, and from Isaiah and the Book of Hebrews. We will learn that what we have received we also pass on, so we must investigate some of the giving and taking and passing on of which the gospel consists. Christ has given himself, and he has taken us. Now we are able to give ourselves away, and take one another. We can now do this because we are given by God to one another, and given through time into one another’s hands.