There is an ever resurgent paradox in the experience of the Church which recognizes itself both as divided and deeply one. Divided not only on superficial matters, but on things that entail our loyalty to the Lord and our loyalty to the truth and the life which He has committed to us and at the same time in spite of this dividedness a unity so profound that a Christian recognizes his brother in another Christian.
When we look at the root of this disunity and of this dividedness, very often we are told that we are one in baptism and divided in the Eucharist, that our unity resides in our baptism, baptism, one faith, one Lord, while our dividedness does not allow us to break together the bread, to share together the same cup.
And yet I believe that we must look into it more searchingly, and more earnestly, because it is not so certain that we are one in baptism neither is it so certain that we are divided in the mystery of the common life with the Lord.
When we think of baptism we must think in the terms which the Apostles defined, which St Paul expressed when he said in the beginning of the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that to be baptised means to die together with Christ, in Christ’s death, arid to rise again into the life of the Risen Christ. This is baptism possessed, actual, real; are we who have been baptized in our different Churches, are we truly bearing fruits of our baptism? Or have we only received from God a seed of life which is still dormant, has born no fruit, has developed into no oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ either in His death or in His life. Does not the line of separation run, not between one denomination for another, one Church for another, but between one person and another, even within the same Church? Are we not to answer one day for what we have received, of which we have born no fruit. Is it enough to have been sacramentally baptized if in the course of all our lives we bear not in our body the death of Christ, we are in no wise experientially in possession of the life of Christ, of the life of the Resurrection, Life eternal itself. Can we say that we are one in this particular manner with Him who is our oneness?
If that is true, should we not reflect very earnestly, look searchingly at our hearts and minds, at our will, at our life, and ask ourselves: am I truly in possession of what was given me in baptism or am I like the man in the parable of the talents, who indeed received a talent from God which he was called to make to bear fruit and who hid it away and came to the Lord empty handed, in possession of nothing except what was God’s own, which he had not made his own, and on the other hand, we perceive painfully, cruelly, how divided we are when having prayed together at the Eucharistic celebration, we cannot break together the bread and drink the cup. But is this all there is to the Eucharistic mystery? Is that all what the Eucharist is and stands for? When the Lord Jesus Christ said to His Disciples: do this in remembrance of me, did He only instituted a holy sacred meal? Indeed He commanded us to continue in this breaking of bread and this sharing of the cup, indeed the meal which we share is holy because it is God’s own, a prefiguration of the banquet of the Kingdom and yet this bread broken, this cup shared stand for all that happened afterwards, the anguish of the garden of Gethsemanee, the loneliness of Christ’s forgotten by His Disciples that had gone to sleep, betrayed by Judas, abandoned by His disciples that fled, judged iniquitously by the High Priests and by Herode and by Pilate. It stands for the Crucifixion and the death and the dereliction of Christ on the Cross.
This holy meal represents all that, and when we participate in the holy meal it is only because we have accepted – but have not carried out – what we promised: to be so one with Christ that what happened to Him should be our destiny on earth, as we hope to share His destiny, indeed His being, in heaven.
There is a side of the Eucharistic mystery in which we are divided, the breaking of the bread, the sharing of the cup, but who can prevent us from being one in the washing of the feet, in this humble service which Christ performed? And He said: I have given you an example for you to follow….
And again to what extent, in what way, to what depth, to what purpose do we break the bread and share the cup if we do not partake in all or at least in part of what it stands for, love, love sacrificial, love that generously, wholeheartedly gives itself for others to live and be saved. This is a condition for our participation and this is the fruits which we can bring for taking part. Are we so sure that we are at one when we receive Communion or that we are separated when we are debared and unable to receive Communion?
Is it only denominational boundaries and frontiers that separate us or is it more basically and more tragically the fact that we forget what the holy meal stands for and what we pledge ourselves when we come to it and partake in it. And are there not many who across the boundaries will discover their oneness in this crucified love of God abroad in their lives, and having become reality in their lives; while others, who stood side by side and broke the bread and shared the cup will discover perhaps one day how alien they have been, not only to one another, but to the Lord.
So let us be very thoughtful, very searching when we think of ourselves and very humble and silent when we think of others. Are we one in baptism, are we divided in the Eucharist? Yes and No, but probably not along the lines of dividedness that we imagine are true, but along another line which can be defined by the Name of Christ. How are we related to Him? If we are, no boundaries can keep us apart, if we are not, nothing can bring us together. Let us then judge ourselves before we are judged of God. Let us judge us in order to change, in order to become what we claim to be, Christians; God’s own people.