As Good As it Gets
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
Today we will start at the end of this Gospel and work backwards to the beginning. John tells us that Jesus was not sent into the world to condemn it but to save it. It might be helpful to take a minute and look at some older church practices and ideas regarding salvation.
The early church gave communion ''in both kinds'' to everyone. This phrase meant that each baptized person coming forward would receive the body of Christ and his blood in the symbolic elements of bread and wine. Wine was expensive and is difficult to store for any length of time. As Europe became mostly Christian, cathedrals were built and a huge portion of the population was in church on Sundays. At some point, the wine was reserved for the deacons, priests and bishops present in the mass. The people would receive only the wafer. Yes, pressed unleavened wheat wafers have been used by the church as ''bread'' for over a thousand years.
By the time we get to 1400s, the common practice of the people is to receive communion once a year only at Easter. The church at that point required confession before receiving communion, so partly because of the difficulty of making an appointment with the priest, traveling to the church another time and the discomfort of confession itself meant that once a year was good enough for the masses. Some wags have noted that the European practice of the time was to bathe once a year on Holy Saturday, make your confession and receive the Body of Christ. At least you were clean one day a year.
They say that theology is developed to explain what the people already do. This is no exception. Over the years, the scholars of the church decided that the people were in fact receiving the symbolic body of Christ EVERY Sunday by simply looking at it. This was referred to as ''ocular communion.'' Elaborate artistic containers called ''monstrances'' were constructed to house the Euchari ...
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