This past Sunday as I helped serve communion we stopped at a young girl as the priest gave her a gluten-free wafer (which she required). I watched as she curiously examined it and put it in her mouth. As she chewed it, she looked off into space and said with the loveliest innocence and wonder: “This tastes like something I’ve tasted before.” To which I thought, exactly!
There is a deep theological profundity in those simple words.
In the Anglican tradition during the celebration of the Eucharist the priest prays, “…we offer you, Father, this bread and this cup. Send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts, that all who eat and drink at this table may be one body and one holy people, a living sacrifice in Jesus Christ, our Lord,” (Eucharistic Prayer I).
After this prayer, in many Anglican churches (ours included), the prayer of humble access is prayed. In it we pray: “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.”
On the one hand, we offer up with thanksgiving and praise the bread and the wine, bits of the created order that we can touch and taste. Then, on the other hand, we ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us and these gifts so that in eating and drinking them we are eating “the flesh of they dear Son Jesus Christ” and drinking “his blood”. The result is that a community is gathered and transformed: we become “one body and one holy people, a living sacrifice”. We, “dwell in him, and he in us”.
Here, in this act we have the gospel in the form of a “visible word” (St. Augustine). The stuff of the earth, taken up with thanksgiving, transformed. It is a meal which remembers and makes present the death of Christ on the cross. It is a meal which anticipates and makes present the heavenly banquet. This is indeed a foretaste of the promise of God to see his creative work through to the end, when the whole of creation will be taken up into Christ, transformed, and made new. The result will not be alien and strange. No, it will taste like something we’ve tasted before.