Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Matthew 8.5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Some scholars believe that the centurion's "servant" was not so much a servant as a male lover/partner, offering evidence for how the Greek word used is used elsewhere. My extremely-rusty-and-never-that-good Greek is not proficient enough for me to make such a judgment, but assuming this is true, it gives the gospel an interesting spin. Certainly, Jesus' healing of a gentile and someone related to a soldier (as lover or servant), someone who was very much outside the religious mainstream of his day, speaks to his embrace of the marginalized, and if this is indeed a same-sex couple, then this only intensifies this theme.

This gospel is also the source for the beautiful prayer recited by the celebrant and communicants in the Roman rite (3 times in the classic version, first by celebrant and then separately by communicants after the invitation -- reduced to one recitation in the modern version) -- "Lord, I am not worthy, that thou shouldest enter under my roof: but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed" (translation from the English [Knott] Missal -- the modern Roman translation is sadly deficient, as is typical).

It is unfortunate that St. Paul's admonition for communicants to examine themselves before receiving communion, lest they eat and drink condemnation to themselves, has been twisted into the de facto excommunication of the vast majority of Christians the majority of time. In the Roman church prior to Pius X, and still in the Orthodox churches, frequent communion was discouraged because of the alleged unworthiness of the average Christian. In most Anglican and Protestant churches (Plymouth Brethren and Barton/Campbell/Stone restoration churches being exceptions), the celebration of the Eucharist became restricted in most churches to monthly or even quarterly (twice-yearly in Amish and some Mennonite churches) because of the unworthiness of the congregation. This began to change among Anglicans with the Oxford Movement, and Lutherans and other Protestants since the Liturgical Movement have begun to celebrate more frequently, Christ be praised.

As long as one is not at enmity with others (and I believe that a willingness to be made willing to forgive is sufficient, if brought in prayer to Christ) and properly discerns the body of Christ (I'll post on that another time -- let's just say someone who is in relationship with Christ), one should commune. The idea that because one hasn't been to confession, or hasn't fasted, or is somehow not "spiritual enough" is a terrible reason to stay away -- better a sinner who recognizes their sinfulness should commune than a prideful person who mistakenly believes they have "earned" the sacrament through devotional exercises. None of us can ever be worthy enough to deserve to receive Christ in the Eucharist -- and none of us needs to be -- as long as we are humble enough to recognize our sinfulness, we are invited.

And, just as it would be rude to be invited to a dinner party and to refuse to eat once there, so it grieves our Lord when Christians stay away from receiving Christ in the Eucharist.


Michael said...


friar_tuck said...

beware o man from dust you are to dust you shall return and if you hide the truth it shall be revealed