05 May 2019

Our Lord Speaks and We Listen

For Eastertide, Pastor sings the Our Father and we join in at the Doxology, and then he chants the Words of Our Lord's Testament: "Our Lord Jesus Christ..." When he concludes the words over the bread, he elevates the host as the chime rings out three slow steady strokes. I confess that I usually sing the words along with him in my head, and then as he holds aloft the Lord's body, there is time to offer prayer as he and the assistants genuflect before our Lord's body. My usual prayer is:

Thine of Thine own, which Thou didst offer on behalf of all and for all. Glory to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God. Glory to Thee forever!

And thus the evocation of Thomas' confession from last week's Gospel which further pulls toward the beatitude that Christ pronounced in response to Thomas's confession: "You believe because you have seen; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

We look upon the consecrated bread, but we do not see what it is. We believe what it is. Christ word tells us what it is. "My body, given for you." And that is why Pastor drops to his knees before the altar and the servers with him. And this kneeling before the Lord, this is itself a confession of and anticipation of Christ's return in glory, when "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

Similarly, with the consecration of the cup. Pastor resumes his chant and I (and I expect most of us) sing the words in our hearts right along with him. He holds the chalice aloft at the conclusion as the chime sounds those three solemn strokes again. And again, my usual prayer during this solemn moment before the blood which has redeemed the world is to pray:

Thine of Thine own, which Thou didst offer on behalf of all and for all. Glory to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God. Glory to Thee forever! 

The chalice we see. If we could peek in it, the wine we would see. But the blood is not seen. Yet our Lord has promised us: "This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you." What He promises is so, and blessed are we who believe. 

Today's Gospel reading from John 10 spoke of the voice of Christ as the very principle of the Church's unity: "And I have other sheep that are not of this fold (i.e., not of the Jews, but the Gentiles, us). I must bring them also, and *they will listen to my voice.* So there will be one flock, one shepherd." The listening to the voice of Christ is precisely that which constitutes the unity of the Church: He speaks, we listen, and His Word bestows what it says (Norman Nagel). And this IS the primary pulse of the Divine Service. One of the great beauties of the Church's Divine Service as celebrated at St. Paul's is the way the listening to the words of Christ (both in the Gospel reading, usually read in the midst) and the Words of the Lord's Testament are given special treatment, where the chanting and the ceremonies invite us, summon us, remind us: "Listen, Little Lambs! Listen now to my voice! I am speaking who gave My life into death that you might never die."

Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miscerere nobis... dona nobis pacem.

No comments: