" The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
THE Holy Eucharist is plainly the closest union of man with God. Through the Incarnation God took our nature, took the Manhood into God. But although we had that unspeakable nearness to Himself, in that the Co-eternal Son, God of God, and God with God, took not the nature of Angels, but took the Manhood into God; this was a gift to our whole race. It was a gift which, by its very nature, must overflow to us individually; yet still it required a further act of God's condescension fully to apply it to each one of us. God the Word became Flesh. Yet hereby He was in His Human Nature one with us; we were not, as yet, made " one with Him."
We belonged to Him as His creatures. Unutterable was the love whereby, when man was fallen, He took part of all our miseries, except our sins, and the sinfulness of our nature; and these, which He could not take “He took on Himself: what we could not bear, He bare for us. But although we were thereby reconciled to God, as His creatures, we were not yet united to Him individually. We could not be united to Him, save by His communicating Himself to us. This He willed to do by indwelling in us through His Spirit; by making us, through the Sacrament of Baptism, members of His Son; by giving us, through the Holy Eucharist, not in any carnal way, but really and spiritually the Flesh and Blood of the Incarnate Son, whereby " He dwelleth in us, and we in Him; He is one with us, and we with Him." Through these, He imparteth to us the life which He Himself is. He, the Life of the world, maketh those alive, in whom He is. This is ”the comfort of the penitent, the joy of the faithful, the Paradise of the holy, the Heaven of those whose conversation is in Heaven, the purity of those who long to be partakers of His holiness, the strengthening of man's heart, the renewal of the inward man, the fervour of Divine love, spiritual peace, kindled hope, assured faith, burning thankfulness,—that our Lord Jesus Christ, not in figure, but in reality, although a spiritual reality, does give Himself to us, does come to be in us.
But nearness to God has also an awful aspect. " Our God is a consuming fire." Your consciences, my younger brethren, can best tell you whether your souls are arrayed in the wedding-garment which Christ gives, and which Christ requires in those who would approach to His Heavenly Feast, the wedding-garment of faith and love unfeigned, an upright and holy conversation, cleansed and made pure by the Blood of Christ; or whether, " grieving the Spirit of God, whereby ye were sealed," and " not led by the Spirit of God," ye are now (God forbid that ye should remain so) " none of His." I speak not now of the present, but of the past. Ye yourselves best know, how far ye differ from that past. But no one at any time can have known in any great degree, what were the habits of a large portion of the young in this place, or even the very outward fact, how, when man required it, almost all received the Holy Communion; how few, when God only called, and the young were left to their own consciences,—none can have observed this, without greatly fearing, that if too few are present in the one case, too many are present in the other.
The Church requires as conditions; repentance, faith, charity, a loving memory of the Passion of our Lord, and -a stedfast purpose to lead a new life. This you are to ascertain for yourselves, by examining yourselves. God bids you by St. Paul; He exhorts you by the Church; " search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly and after the manner of dissemblers with God, but so that ye may come holy and clean to such a Heavenly Feast."
“Would that one were not compelled to think that many sought rather to forget themselves, than to examine themselves; to hide themselves from themselves ; to put away their sins for a day or two, in order to resume them as before; as though the wedding-garment which God requires, might be laid aside, as soon as the Feast was over; or as if this unwilling abstinence of a few days from some besetting sin were the clothing of " the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
I would then, once more, my younger brethren, set before you the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist on both sides. And this, both because some, looking for too much clearness in their intellectual conception of Divine mysteries, are tempted to undue speculation in defining the mode of the Sacred Presence of our Lord; and others, practically, can hardly be thought to believe any real Presence at all; else they would not approach, as they do, so unrepenting and so careless. ...
“And so, as to the Holy Eucharist, men can conceive that the elements after consecration are only what they seem and what they were before, not the vehicle of an Unseen Presence; or, again, they can imagine that they are nothing but an outward show, and that the Body of Christ alone is present; they can forget either the Unseen Presence or the visible Justice, but without any change in the soul, such as in this life is wrought by the Grace of God, amid the patient endurance of suffering for the love of God, or in penitential sorrow. I instanced this, because I have known persons desirous to believe the doctrine, as giving them better hope of being saved.