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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 2

19 January, 2014

January is a good time of the year to reflect on priorities: what is important to me — to us as a parish community — as we embark on a new year? As Fr Samuel and Fr Philip have been away on holiday I have had the priviledge of saying Mass at 7.15am most weekdays in the Handfield Chapel. At first I was a little daunted, but the discipline of daily communion has turned out to be such a gift. The sacrament of the Eucharist, the mystery of the real presence of Christ, lies at the very heart of what it is to be an Anglo-Catholic Christian. St Augustine wrote: "If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive" (Sermon 227). Each time we celebrate the mass we proclaim a profound truth: "We are the Body of Christ: His Spirit is with us."

In Australia we have the freedom to receive communion when ever we want, and at St Peter's we keep the ancient tradition of offering a daily Mass. Not everyone in the world has this priviledge, and very few Anglican churches these days celebrate the Eucharist each day; we should probably (myself included) value it much more than we do. The story of Fr Gheorghe Calciu is a reminder of this; he was imprisoned for 21 years for speaking against Communism.

It was Sunday, and I was isolated. It was one of the days without food, and I couldn't serve the Divine Liturgy, because I had no bread ... a thought came to me: to ask the guard for some bread. The evil guard was on duty, and I knew that my request would make him angry; he would insult me, and he would ruin the peace I had in my soul for that holy day. But the thought persisted and grew so strong that I knocked on the iron door of the cell. A fe minutes later the door was violently opened, and the furious guard asked me what was the matter. I asked him for a piece of bread, no more than an ounce, for serving the Holy Liturgy.

My request seemed absurd to him; it was so unexpected that his mouth dropped open in amazement. He left slamming the door as violently as he had opened it. Many other hungry prisoners asked him for bread, but I was the first to ask for bread in order to serve the Divine Liturgy. I regretted my impulse. Twenty minutes later, the door of my cell opened halfway, and quietly the guard gave me the ration for a whole day; four ounces of bread. He shut the door as quietly as he had opened it. And if I had not been holding the bread I would have thought that it was an illusion.

This was the most profound and most sublime Holy Sacrament I have ever experienced. The service was two hours long, and the guard did not disturb or insult me as at other times; the entire duration of the isolation section was peaceful. Later, after I had finished the Liturgy, and the fragrence of the prayer was still in my cell, the door opened quietly and the guard whispered: "Father, don't tell anyone I gave you bread, or you'll ruin me."

365 Days of Yes: Daily Prayers and Readings for a Missional People (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2012), p. 51.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Ordinary Sunday 2 Musings

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