Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Corpus Christi and the Mass as Worship and Instruction

The Rev'd Basil Maturin.
The Rev’d Basil Maturin has always been a great favorite of mine.  An Episcopal priest who once served at my old parish in Philadelphia, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and in 1913 was appointed the Catholic chaplain to Oxford University. In 1915 he made a successful preaching tour of the United States, booking a return passage on the Lusitania. As the ship began to sink, he was seen moving among the passengers giving absolution. He did not take a life belt for himself and was last seen handing a child into a lifeboat with the words, "Find its mother."
Unlike many converts of his generation, Maturin resisted the temptation to browbeat his former compatriots with his new-found faith and he never lost his sense of mystery and beauty, the Anglican Oxford Movement’s great gift to nineteenth-century Christianity. As we approach the Feast of Corpus Christi tomorrow, when we remember the institution of the Mass, I always think of Maturin’s description of the Most Blessed Sacrament as being both worship and instruction:
Till the Truth has gone down into the heart and burns there like fire, and breathes there like air, it is lifeless. Now it is in worship that we learn our faith as we are drawn closer and closer to its Author; the learned man with his cultured mind kneels beside the beggar who cannot read, yet both believe the same. Now the Blessed Sacrament is the concentration of faith and worship, it is the presentation of the great dogmas of our faith in the language of the heart. 
Our Lord Himself prescribed one and only one form of worship in which all the great doctrines of our faith were taught. To that he bid men come to be taught almost unconsciously. Two great doctrines sum up Christian faith and life: God becomes man and gives us His nature. 
I can't doubt the meaning when I hear This is My Body. Other religions profess to satisfy the religious instinct: Christianity to give a gift to heal us—this is the life of Christ. Therefore the Altar has always protected the supernatural teaching of Christianity. If, then, we believe this, if Christianity is the fulfillment of the religious aspirations of humanity, if it is the divine means whereby God has chosen to reveal Himself to man, every detail of the Christian worship and teaching becomes of the utmost importance, for it safeguards the great truths of revelation.

Melchizedek offers bread and wine.